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Title: Star Maker
Author: Olaf Stapledon
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Title: Star Maker
Author: Olaf Stapledon




PREFACE

AT a moment when Europe is in danger of a catastrophe worse than that of
1914 a book like this may be condemned as a distraction from the
desperately urgent defence of civilization against modern barbarism.

Year by year, month by month, the plight of our fragmentary and
precarious civilization becomes more serious. Fascism abroad grows more
bold and ruthless in its foreign ventures, more tyrannical toward its
own citizens, more barbarian in its contempt for the life of the mind.
Even in our own country we have reason to fear a tendency toward
militarization and the curtailment of civil liberty. Moreover, while the
decades pass, no resolute step is taken to alleviate the injustice of
our social order. Our outworn economic system dooms millions to
frustration.

In these conditions it is difficult for writers to pursue their calling
at once with courage and with balanced judgment. Some merely shrug their
shoulders and withdraw from the central struggle of our age. These, with
their minds closed against the world's most vital issues, inevitably
produce works which not only have no depth of significance for their
contemporaries but also are subtly insincere. For these writers must
consciously or unconsciously contrive to persuade themselves either that
the crisis in human affairs does not exist, or that it is less important
than their own work, or that it is anyhow not their business. But the
crisis does exist, is of supreme importance, and concerns us all. Can
anyone who is at all intelligent and informed hold the contrary without
self-deception?

Yet I have a lively sympathy with some of those "intellectuals" who
declare that they have no useful contribution to make to the struggle,
and therefore had better not dabble in it. I am, in fact, one of them.
In our defense I should say that, though we are inactive or ineffective
as direct supporters of the cause, we do not ignore it. Indeed, it
constantly, obsessively, holds our attention. But we are convinced by
prolonged trial and error that the most useful service open to us is
indirect. For some writers the case is different. Gallantly plunging
into the struggle, they use their powers to spread urgent propaganda, or
they even take up arms in the cause. If they have suitable ability, and
if the particular struggle in which they serve is in fact a part of the
great enterprise of defending (or creating) civilization, they may, of
course, do valuable work. In addition they may gain great wealth of
experience and human sympathy, thereby immensely increasing their
literary power. But the very urgency of their service may tend to blind
them to the importance of maintaining and extending, even in this age of
crisis, what may be called metaphorically the "self-critical
self-consciousness of the human species," or the attempt to see man's
life as a whole in relation to the rest of things. This involves the
will to regard all human affairs and ideals and theories with as little
human prejudice as possible. Those who are in the thick of the struggle
inevitably tend to become, though in a great and just cause, partisan.
They nobly forgo something of that detachment, that power of cold
assessment, which is, after all, among the most valuable human
capacities. In their case this is perhaps as it should be; for a
desperate struggle demands less of detachment than of devotion. But some
who have the cause at heart must serve by striving to maintain, along
with human loyalty, a more dispassionate spirit. And perhaps the attempt
to see our turbulent world against a background of stars may, after all,
increase, not lessen the significance of the present human crisis. It
may also strengthen our charity toward one another.

In this belief I have tried to construct an imaginative sketch of the
dread but vital whole of things. I know well that it is a ludicrously
inadequate and in some ways a childish sketch, even when regarded from
the angle of contemporary human experience. In a calmer and a wiser age
it might well seem crazy. Yet in spite of its crudity, and in spite of
its remoteness, it is perhaps not wholly irrelevant.

At the risk of raising thunder both on the Left and on the Right, I have
occasionally used certain ideas and words derived from religion, and I
have tried to interpret them in relation to modern needs. The valuable,
though much damaged words "spiritual" and "worship," which have become
almost as obscene to the Left as the good old sexual words are to the
Right, are here intended to suggest an experience which the Right is apt
to pervert and the Left to misconceive. This experience, I should say,
involves detachment from all private, all social, all racial ends; not
in the sense that it leads a man to reject them, but that it makes him
prize them in a new way. The "spiritual life" seems to be in essence the
attempt to discover and adopt the attitude which is in fact appropriate
to our experience as a whole, just as admiration is felt to be in fact
appropriate toward a well-grown human being. This enterprise can lead to
an increased lucidity and finer temper of consciousness, and therefore
can have a great and beneficial effect on behavior. Indeed, if this
supremely humanizing experience does not produce, along with a kind of
piety toward fate, the resolute will to serve our waking humanity, it is
a mere sham and a snare.

Before closing this preface I must express my gratitude to Professor L.
C. Martin, Mr. L. H. Myers, and Mr. E. V. Rieu, for much helpful and
sympathetic criticism, in consequence of which I rewrote many chapters.
Even now I hesitate to associate their names with such an extravagant
work. Judged by the standards of the Novel, it is remarkably bad. In
fact, it is no novel at all.

Certain ideas about artificial planets were suggested by Mr. J. D.
Bernal's fascinating little book The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. I
hope he will not strongly disapprove of my treatment of them.

My wife I must thank both for work on the proofs and for being herself.

At the end of the book I have included a note on Magnitude, which may be
helpful to readers unfamiliar with astronomy. The very sketchy time
scales may amuse some.

O. S. March 1937




CHAPTER I

THE EARTH

1. THE STARTING POINT

ONE night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill. Dark
heather checked my feet. Below marched the suburban lamps. Windows,
their curtains drawn, were shut eyes, inwardly watching the lives of
dreams. Beyond the sea's level darkness a lighthouse pulsed. Overhead,
obscurity. I distinguished our own house, our islet in the tumultuous
and bitter currents of the world. There, for a decade and a half, we
two, so different in quality, had grown in and in to one another, for
mutual support and nourishment, in intricate symbiosis. There daily we
planned our several undertakings, and recounted the day's oddities and
vexations. There letters piled up to be answered, socks to be darned.
There the children were born, those sudden new lives. There, under that
roof, our own two lives, recalcitrant sometimes to one another, were all
the while thankfully one, one larger, more conscious life than either
alone.

All this, surely, was good. Yet there was bitterness. And bitterness not
only invaded us from the world; it welled up also within our own magic
circle. For horror at our futility, at our own unreality, and not only
at the world's delirium, had driven me out on to the hill.

We were always hurrying from one little urgent task to another, but the
upshot was insubstantial. Had we, perhaps, misconceived our whole
existence? Were we, as it were, living from false premises? And in
particular, this partnership of ours, this seemingly so well-based
fulcrum for activity in the world, was it after all nothing but a little
eddy of complacent and ingrown domesticity, ineffectively whirling on
the surface of the great flux, having in itself no depth of being, and
no significance? Had we perhaps after all deceived ourselves? Behind
those rapt windows did we, like so many others, indeed live only a
dream? In a sick world even the hale are sick. And we two, spinning our
little life mostly by rote, seldom with clear cognizance, seldom with
firm intent, were products of a sick world.

Yet this life of ours was not all sheer and barren fantasy. Was it not
spun from the actual fibres of reality, which we gathered in with all
the comings and goings through our door, all our traffic with the suburb
and the city and with remoter cities, and with the ends of the earth?
And were we not spinning together an authentic expression of our own
nature? Did not our life issue daily as more or less firm threads of
active living, and mesh itself into the growing web, the intricate,
ever-proliferating pattern of mankind?

I considered "us" with quiet interest and a kind of amused awe. How
could I describe our relationship even to myself without either
disparaging it or insulting it with the tawdry decoration of
sentimentality? For this our delicate balance of dependence and
independence, this coolly critical, shrewdly ridiculing, but loving
mutual contact, was surely a microcosm of true community, was after all
in its simple style an actual and living example of that high goal which
the world seeks.

The whole world? The whole universe? Overhead, obscurity unveiled a
star. One tremulous arrow of light, projected how many thousands of
years ago, now stung my nerves with vision, and my heart with fear. For
in such a universe as this what significance could there be in our
fortuitous, our frail, our evanescent community?

But now irrationally I was seized with a strange worship, not, surely of
the star, that mere furnace which mere distance falsely sanctified, but
of something other, which the dire contrast of the star and us signified
to the heart. Yet what, what could thus be signified? Intellect, peering
beyond the star, discovered no Star Maker, but only darkness; no Love,
no Power even, but only Nothing. And yet the heart praised.

Impatiently I shook off this folly, and reverted from the inscrutable to
the familiar and the concrete. Thrusting aside worship, and fear also
and bitterness, I determined to examine more coldly this remarkable
"us," this surprisingly impressive datum, which to ourselves remained
basic to the universe, though in relation to the stars it appeared so
slight a thing.

Considered even without reference to our belittling cosmical background,
we were after all insignificant, perhaps ridiculous. We were such a
commonplace occurrence, so trite, so respectable. We were just a married
couple, making shift to live together without undue strain. Marriage in
our time was suspect. And ours, with its trivial romantic origin, was
doubly suspect.

We had first met when she was a child. Our eyes encountered. She looked
at me for a moment with quiet attention; even, I had romantically
imagined, with obscure, deep-lying recognition. I, at any rate,
recognized in that look (so I persuaded myself in my fever of
adolescence) my destiny. Yes! How predestinate had seemed our union! Yet
now, in retrospect, how accidental! True, of course, that as a
long-married couple we fitted rather neatly, like two close trees whose
trunks have grown upwards together as a single shaft, mutually
distorting, but mutually supporting. Coldly I now assessed her as merely
a useful, but often infuriating adjunct to my personal life. We were on
the whole sensible companions. We left one another a certain freedom,
and so we were able to endure our proximity.

Such was our relationship. Stated thus it did not seem very significant
for the understanding of the universe. Yet in my heart I knew that it
was so. Even the cold stars, even the whole cosmos with all its inane
immensities could not convince me that this, our prized atom of
community, imperfect as it was, short-lived as it must be, was not
significant.

But could this indescribable union of ours really have any significance
at all beyond itself? Did it, for instance, prove that the essential
nature of all human beings was to love, rather than to hate and fear?
Was it evidence that all men and women the world over, though
circumstance might prevent them, were at heart capable of supporting a
world-wide, love-knit community? And further, did it, being itself a
product of the cosmos, prove that love was in some way basic to the
cosmos itself? And did it afford, through its own felt intrinsic
excellence, some guarantee that we two, its frail supporters, must in
some sense have eternal life? Did it, in fact, prove that love was God,
and God was awaiting us in his heaven?

No! Our homely, friendly, exasperating, laughter-making, undecorated
though most prized community of spirit proved none of these things. It
was no certain guarantee of anything but its own imperfect rightness. It
was nothing but a very minute, very bright epitome of one out of the
many potentialities of existence. I remembered the swarms of the
unseeing stars. I remembered the tumult of hate and fear and bitterness
which is man's world. I remembered, too, our own not infrequent
discordancy. And I reminded myself that we should very soon vanish like
the flurry that a breeze has made on still water.

Once more there came to me a perception of the strange contrast of the
stars and us. The incalculable potency of the cosmos mysteriously
enhanced the tightness of our brief spark of community, and of mankind's
brief, uncertain venture. And these in turn quickened the cosmos.

I sat down on the heather. Overhead obscurity was now in full retreat.
In its rear the freed population of the sky sprang out of hiding, star
by star.

On every side the shadowy hills or the guessed, featureless sea extended
beyond sight. But the hawk-flight of imagination followed them as they
curved downward below the horizon. I perceived that I was on a little
round grain of rock and metal, filmed with water and with air, whirling
in sunlight and darkness. And on the skin of that little grain all the
swarms of men, generation by generation, had lived in labor and
blindness, with intermittent joy and intermittent lucidity of spirit.
And all their history, with its folk-wanderings, its empires, its
philosophies, its proud sciences, its social revolutions, its increasing
hunger for community, was but a flicker in one day of the lives of
stars.

If one could know whether among that glittering host there were here and
there other spirit-inhabited grains of rock and metal, whether man's
blundering search for wisdom and for love was a sole and insignificant
tremor, or part of a universal movement!

1. EARTH AMONG THE STARS

Overhead obscurity was gone. From horizon to horizon the sky was an
unbroken spread of stars. Two planets stared, unwinking. The more
obtrusive of the constellations asserted their individuality. Orion's
four-square shoulders and feet, his belt and sword, the Plough, the
zigzag of Cassiopeia, the intimate Pleiades, all were duly patterned on
the dark. The Milky Way, a vague hoop of light, spanned the sky.

Imagination completed what mere sight could not achieve. Looking down, I
seemed to see through a transparent planet, through heather and solid
rock, through the buried graveyards of vanished species, down through
the molten flow of basalt, and on into the Earth's core of iron; then on
again, still seemingly downwards, through the southern strata to the
southern ocean and lands, past the roots of gum trees and the feet of
the inverted antipodeans, through their blue, sun-pierced awning of day,
and out into the eternal night, where sun and stars are together. For
there, dizzyingly far below me, like fishes in the depth of a lake, lay
the nether constellations. The two domes of the sky were fused into one
hollow sphere, star-peopled, black, even beside the blinding sun. The
young moon was a curve of incandescent wire. The completed hoop of the
Milky Way encircled the universe. In a strange vertigo, I looked for
reassurance at the little glowing windows of our home. There they still
were; and the whole suburb, and the hills. But stars shone through all.
It was as though all terrestrial things were made of glass, or of some
more limpid, more ethereal vitreosity. Faintly the church clock chimed
for midnight. Dimly, receding, it tolled the first stroke.

Imagination was now stimulated to a new, strange mode of perception.
Looking from star to star, I saw the heaven no longer as a jeweled
ceiling and floor, but as depth beyond flashing depth of suns. And
though for the most part the great and familiar lights of the sky stood
forth as our near neighbors, some brilliant stars were seen to be in
fact remote and mighty, while some dim lamps were visible only because
they were so near. On every side the middle distance was crowded with
swarms and streams of stars. But even these now seemed near; for the
Milky Way had receded into an incomparably greater distance. And through
gaps in its nearer parts appeared vista beyond vista of luminous mists,
and deep perspectives of stellar populations.

The universe in which fate had set me was no spangled chamber, but a
perceived vortex of star-streams. No! It was more. Peering between the
stars into the outer darkness, I saw also, as mere flecks and points of
light, other such vortices, such galaxies, sparsely scattered in the
void, depth beyond depth, so far afield that even the eye of imagination
could find no limits to the cosmical, the all-embracing galaxy of
galaxies. The universe now appeared to me as a void wherein floated rare
flakes of snow, each flake a universe.

Gazing at the faintest and remotest of all the swarm of universes, I
seemed, by hypertelescopic imagination, to see it as a population of
suns; and near one of those suns was a planet, and on that planet's dark
side a hill, and on that hill myself. For our astronomers assure us that
in this boundless finitude which we call the cosmos the straight lines
of light lead not to infinity but to their source. Then I remembered
that, had my vision depended on physical light, and not on the light of
imagination, the rays coming thus to me "round" the cosmos would have
revealed, not myself, but events that had ceased long before the Earth,
or perhaps even the Sun, was formed.

But now, once more shunning these immensities, I looked again for the
curtained windows of our home, which, though star-pierced, was still
more real to me than all the galaxies. But our home had vanished, with
the whole suburb, and the hills too, and the sea. The very ground on
which I had been sitting was gone. Instead there lay far below me an
insubstantial gloom. And I myself was seemingly disembodied, for I could
neither see nor touch my own flesh. And when I willed to move my limbs,
nothing happened. I had no limbs. The familiar inner perceptions of my
body, and the headache which had oppressed me since morning, had given
way to a vague lightness and exhilaration.

When I realized fully the change that had come over me, I wondered if I
had died, and was entering some wholly unexpected new existence. Such a
banal possibility at first exasperated me. Then with sudden dismay I
understood that if indeed I had died I should not return to my prized,
concrete atom of community. The violence of my distress shocked me. But
soon I comforted myself with the thought that after all I was probably
not dead, but in some sort of trance, from which I might wake at any
minute. I resolved, therefore, not to be unduly alarmed by this
mysterious change. With scientific interest I would observe all that
happened to me.

I noticed that the obscurity which had taken the place of the ground was
shrinking and condensing. The nether stars were no longer visible
through it. Soon the earth below me was like a huge circular table-top,
a broad disc of darkness surrounded by stars. I was apparently soaring
away from my native planet at incredible speed. The sun, formerly
visible to imagination in the nether heaven, was once more physically
eclipsed by the Earth. Though by now I must have been hundreds of miles
above the ground, I was not troubled by the absence of oxygen and
atmospheric pressure. I experienced only an increasing exhilaration and
a delightful effervescence of thought. The extraordinary brilliance of
the stars excited me. For, whether through the absence of obscuring air,
or through my own increased sensitivity, or both, the sky had taken on
an unfamiliar aspect. Every star had seemingly flared up into higher
magnitude. The heavens blazed. The major stars were like the headlights
of a distant car. The Milky Way, no longer watered down with darkness,
was an encircling, granular river of light.

Presently, along the planet's eastern limb, now far below me, there
appeared a faint line of luminosity; which, as I continued to soar,
warmed here and there to orange and red. Evidently I was traveling not
only upwards but eastwards, and swinging round into the day. Soon the
sun leapt into view, devouring the huge crescent of dawn with its
brilliance. But as I sped on, sun and planet were seen to drift apart,
while the thread of dawn thickened into a misty breadth of sunlight.
This increased, like a visibly waxing moon, till half the planet was
illuminated. Between the areas of night and day, a belt of shade,
warm-tinted, broad as a sub-continent, now marked the area of dawn. As I
continued to rise and travel eastwards, I saw the lands swing westward
along with the day, till I was over the Pacific and high noon. The Earth
appeared now as a great bright orb hundreds of times larger than the
full moon. In its center a dazzling patch of light was the sun's image
reflected in the ocean. The planet's circumference was an indefinite
breadth of luminous haze, fading into the surrounding blackness of
space. Much of the northern hemisphere, tilted somewhat toward me, was
an expanse of snow and cloud-tops. I could trace parts of the outlines
of Japan and China, their vague browns and greens indenting the vague
blues and grays of the ocean. Toward the equator, where the air was
clearer, the ocean was dark. A little whirl of brilliant cloud was
perhaps the upper surface of a hurricane. The Philippines and New Guinea
were precisely mapped. Australia faded into the hazy southern limb.

The spectacle before me was strangely moving. Personal anxiety was
blotted out by wonder and admiration; for the sheer beauty of our planet
surprised me. It was a huge pearl, set in spangled ebony. It was
nacrous, it was an opal. No, it was far more lovely than any jewel. Its
patterned coloring was more subtle, more ethereal. It displayed the
delicacy and brilliance, the intricacy and harmony of a live thing.
Strange that in my remoteness I seemed to feel, as never before, the
vital presence of Earth as of a creature alive but tranced and obscurely
yearning to wake.

I reflected that not one of the visible features of this celestial and
living gem revealed the presence of man. Displayed before me, though
invisible, were some of the most congested centers of human population.
There below me lay huge industrial regions, blackening the air with
smoke. Yet all this thronging life and humanly momentous enterprise had
made no mark whatever on the features of the planet. From this high
look-out the Earth would have appeared no different before the dawn of
man. No visiting angel, or explorer from another planet, could have
guessed that this bland orb teemed with vermin, with world-mastering,
self-torturing, incipiently angelic beasts.



CHAPTER 2

INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL

WHILE I was thus contemplating my native planet, I continued to soar
through space. The Earth was visibly shrinking into the distance, and as
I raced eastwards, it seemed to be rotating beneath me. All its features
swung westwards, till presently sunset and the Mid-Atlantic appeared
upon its eastern limb, and then the night. Within a few minutes, as it
seemed to me, the planet had become an immense half-moon. Soon it was a
misty, dwindling crescent, beside the sharp and minute crescent of its
satellite.

With amazement I realized that I must be traveling at a fantastic, a
quite impossible rate. So rapid was my progress that I seemed to be
passing through a constant hail of meteors. They were invisible till
they were almost abreast of me; for they shone only by reflected
sunlight, appearing for an instant only, as streaks of light, like lamps
seen from an express train. Many of them I met in head-on collision, but
they made no impression on me. One huge irregular bulk of rock, the size
of a house, thoroughly terrified me. The illuminated mass swelled before
my gaze, displayed for a fraction of a second a rough and lumpy surface,
and then engulfed me. Or rather, I infer that it must have engulfed me;
but so swift was my passage that I had no sooner seen it in the middle
distance than I found myself already leaving it behind.

Very soon the Earth was a mere star. I say soon, but my sense of the
passage of time was now very confused. Minutes and hours, and perhaps
even days, even weeks, were now indistinguishable.

While I was still trying to collect myself, I found that I was already
beyond the orbit of Mars, and rushing across the thoroughfare of the
asteroids. Some of these tiny planets were now so near that they
appeared as great stars streaming across the constellations. One or two
revealed gibbous, then crescent forms before they faded behind me.

Already Jupiter, far ahead of me, grew increasingly bright and shifted
its position among the fixed stars. The great globe now appeared as a
disc, which soon was larger than the shrinking sun. Its four major
satellites were little pearls floating beside it. The planet's surface
now appeared like streaky bacon, by reason of its cloud-zones. Clouds
fogged its whole circumference. Now I drew abreast of it and passed it.
Owing to the immense depth of its atmosphere, night and day merged into
one another without assignable boundary. I noted here and there on its
eastern and unilluminated hemisphere vague areas of ruddy light, which
were perhaps the glow cast upwards through dense clouds by volcanic
upheavals.

In a few minutes, or perhaps years, Jupiter had become once more a star,
and then was lost in the splendor of the diminished but still blazing
sun. No other of the outer planets lay near my course, but I soon
realized that I must be far beyond the limits of even Pluto's orbit. The
sun was now merely the brightest of the stars, fading behind me.

At last I had time for distress. Nothing now was visible but the starry
sky. The Plough, Cassiopeia, Orion, the Pleiades, mocked me with their
familiarity and their remoteness. The sun was now but one among the
other bright stars. Nothing changed. Was I doomed to hang thus for ever
out in space, a bodiless view-point? Had I died? Was this my punishment
for a singularly ineffectual life? Was this the penalty of an inveterate
will to remain detached from human affairs and passions and prejudices?

In imagination I struggled back to my suburban hilltop. I saw our home.
The door opened. A figure came out into the garden, lit by the hall
light. She stood for a moment looking up and down the road, then went
back into the house. But all this was imagination only. In actuality,
there was nothing but the stars.

After a while I noticed that the sun and all the stars in his
neighborhood were ruddy. Those at the opposite pole of the heaven were
of an icy blue. The explanation of this strange phenomenon flashed upon
me. I was still traveling, and traveling so fast that light itself was
not wholly indifferent to my passage. The overtaking undulations took
long to catch me. They therefore affected me as slower pulsations than
they normally were, and I saw them therefore as red. Those that met me
on my headlong flight were congested and shortened, and were seen as
blue.

Very soon the heavens presented an extraordinary appearance, for all the
stars directly behind me were now deep red, while those directly ahead
were violet. Rubies lay behind me, amethysts ahead of me. Surrounding
the ruby constellations there spread an area of topaz stars, and round
the amethyst constellations an area of sapphires. Beside my course, on
every side, the colors faded into the normal white of the sky's familiar
diamonds. Since I was traveling almost in the plane of the galaxy, the
hoop of the Milky Way, white on either hand, was violet ahead of me, red
behind. Presently the stars immediately before and behind grew dim, then
vanished, leaving two starless holes in the heaven, each hole surrounded
by a zone of colored stars. Evidently I was still gathering speed. Light
from the forward and the hinder stars now reached me in forms beyond the
range of my human vision.

As my speed increased, the two starless patches, before and behind, each
with its colored fringe, continued to encroach upon the intervening zone
of normal stars which lay abreast of me on every side. Amongst these I
now detected movement. Through the effect of my own passage the nearer
stars appeared to drift across the background of the stars at greater
distance. This drifting accelerated, till, for an instant, the whole
visible sky was streaked with flying stars. Then everything vanished.
Presumably my speed was so great in relation to the stars that light
from none of them could take normal effect on me.

Though I was now perhaps traveling faster than light itself, I seemed to
be floating at the bottom of a deep and stagnant well. The featureless
darkness, the complete lack of all sensation, terrified me, if I may
call "terror" the repugnance and foreboding which I now experienced
without any of the bodily accompaniments of terror, without any
sensation of trembling, sweating, gasping or palpitation. Forlornly, and
with self-pity, I longed for home, longed to see once more the face that
I knew best. With the mind's eye I could see her now, sitting by the
fire sewing, a little furrow of anxiety between her brows. Was my body,
I wondered, lying dead on the heather? Would they find it there in the
morning? How would she confront this great change in her life? Certainly
with a brave face; but she would suffer.

But even while I was desperately rebelling against the dissolution of
our treasured atom of community, I was aware that something within me,
the essential spirit within me, willed very emphatically not to retreat
but to press on with this amazing voyage. Not that my longing for the
familiar human world could for a moment be counterbalanced by the mere
craving for adventure. I was of too home-keeping a kind to seek serious
danger and discomfort for their own sake. But timidity was overcome by a
sense of the opportunity that fate was giving me, not only to explore
the depths of the physical universe, but to discover what part life and
mind were actually playing among the stars. A keen hunger now took
possession of me, a hunger not for adventure but for insight into the
significance of man, or of any manlike beings in the cosmos. This homely
treasure of ours, this frank and spring-making daisy beside the arid
track of modern life, impelled me to accept gladly my strange adventure;
for might I not discover that the whole universe was no mere place of
dust and ashes with here and there a stunted life, but actually beyond
the parched terrestrial waste land, a world of flowers?

Was man indeed, as he sometimes desired to be, the growing point of the
cosmical spirit, in its temporal aspect at least? Or was he one of many
million growing points? Or was mankind of no more importance in the
universal view than rats in a cathedral? And again, was man's true
function power, or wisdom, or love, or worship, or all of all these? Or
was the idea of function, of purpose, meaningless in relation to the
cosmos? These grave questions I would answer. Also I must learn to see a
little more clearly and confront a little more rightly (so I put it to
myself) that which, when we glimpse it at all, compels our worship.

I now seemed to my self-important self to be no isolated individual,
craving aggrandizement, but rather an emissary of mankind, no, an organ
of exploration, a feeler, projected by the living human world to make
contact with its fellows in space. At all cost I must go forward, even
if my trivial earthly life must come to an untimely end, and my wife and
children be left without me. I must go forward; and somehow, some day,
even if after centuries of interstellar travel, I must return.

When I look back on that phase of exaltation, now that I have indeed
returned to earth after the most bewildering adventures, I am dismayed
at the contrast between the spiritual treasure which I aspired to hand
over to my fellow men and the paucity of my actual tribute. This failure
was perhaps due to the fact that, though I did indeed accept the
challenge of the adventure, I accepted it only with secret reservations.
Fear and the longing for comfort, I now recognize, dimmed the brightness
of my will. My resolution, so boldly formed, proved after all frail. My
unsteady courage often gave place to yearnings for my native planet.
Over and over again in the course of my travels I had a sense that,
owing to my timid and pedestrian nature, I missed the most significant
aspects of events.

Of all that I experienced on my travels, only a fraction was clearly
intelligible to me even at the time; and then, as I shall tell, my
native powers were aided by beings of superhuman development. Now that I
am once more on my native planet, and this aid is no longer available, I
cannot recapture even so much of the deeper insight as I formerly
attained. And so my record, which tells of the most far-reaching of all
human explorations, turns out to be after all no more reliable than the
rigmarole of any mind unhinged by the impact of experience beyond its
comprehension.

To return to my story. How long I spent in debate with myself I do not
know, but soon after I had made my decision, the absolute darkness was
pierced once more by the stars. I was apparently at rest, for stars were
visible in every direction, and their color was normal.

But a mysterious change had come over me. I soon discovered that, by
merely willing to approach a star, I could set myself in motion toward
it, and at such a speed that I must have traveled much faster than
normal light. This, as I knew very well, was physically impossible.
Scientists had assured me that motion faster than the speed of light was
meaningless. I inferred that my motion must therefore be in some manner
a mental, not a physical phenomenon, that I was enabled to take up
successive viewpoints without physical means of locomotion. It seemed to
me evident, too, that the light with which the stars were now revealed
to me was not normal, physical light; for I noticed that my new and
expeditious means of travel took no effect upon the visible colors of
the stars. However fast I moved, they retained their diamond hues,
though all were somewhat brighter and more tinted than in normal vision.

No sooner had I made sure of my new power of locomotion than I began
feverishly to use it. I told myself that I was embarking on a voyage of
astronomical and metaphysical research; but already my craving for the
Earth was distorting my purpose. It turned my attention unduly toward
the search for planets, and especially for planets of the terrestrial
type.

At random I directed my course toward one of the brighter of the near
stars. So rapid was my advance that certain lesser and still nearer
luminaries streamed past me like meteors. I swung close to the great
sun, insensitive to its heat. On its mottled surface, in spite of the
pervading brilliance, I could see, with my miraculous vision, a group of
huge dark sun-spots, each one a pit into which a dozen Earths could have
been dropped. Round the star's limb the excrescences of the chromosphere
looked like fiery trees and plumes and prehistoric monsters, atiptoe or
awing, all on a globe too small for them. Beyond these the pale corona
spread its films into the darkness. As I rounded the star in hyperbolic
flight I searched anxiously for planets, but found none. I searched
again, meticulously, tacking and veering near and far. In the wider
orbits a small object like the earth might easily be overlooked. I found
nothing but meteors and a few insubstantial comets. This was the more
disappointing because the star seemed to be of much the same type as the
familiar sun. Secretly I had hoped to discover not merely planets but
actually the Earth.

Once more I struck out into the ocean of space, heading for another near
star. Once more I was disappointed. I approached yet another lonely
furnace. This too was unattended by the minute grains that harbor life.

I now hurried from star to star, a lost dog looking for its master. I
rushed hither and thither, intent on finding a sun with planets, and
among those planets my home. Star after star I searched, but far more I
passed impatiently, recognizing at once that they were too large and
tenuous and young to be Earth's luminary. Some were vague ruddy giants
broader than the orbit of Jupiter; some, smaller and more definite, had
the brilliance of a thousand suns, and their color was blue. I had been
told that our Sun was of average type, but I now discovered many more of
the great youngsters than of the shrunken, yellowish middle-aged.
Seemingly I must have strayed into a region of late stellar
condensation.

I noticed, but only to avoid them, great clouds of dust, huge as
constellations, eclipsing the star-streams; and tracts of palely glowing
gas, shining sometimes by their own light, sometimes by the reflected
light of stars. Often these nacrous cloud-continents had secreted within
them a number of vague pearls of light, the embryos of future stars. I
glanced heedlessly at many star-couples, trios, and quartets, in which
more or less equal partners waltz in close union. Once, and once only, I
came on one of those rare couples in which one partner is no bigger than
a mere Earth, but massive as a whole great star, and very brilliant. Up
and down this region of the galaxy I found here and there a dying star,
somberly smoldering; and here and there the encrusted and extinguished
dead. These I could not see till I was almost upon them, and then only
dimly, by the reflected light of the whole heaven. I never approached
nearer to them than I could help, for they were of no interest to me in
my crazy yearning for the Earth. Moreover, they struck a chill into my
mind, prophesying the universal death. I was comforted, however, to find
that as yet there were so few of them.

I found no planets. I knew well that the birth of planets was due to the
close approach of two or more stars, and that such accidents must be
very uncommon. I reminded myself that stars with planets must be as rare
in the galaxy as gems among the grains of sand on the sea-shore. What
chance had I of coming upon one? I began to lose heart. The appalling
desert of darkness and barren fire, the huge emptiness so sparsely
pricked with scintillations, the colossal futility of the whole
universe, hideously oppressed me. And now, an added distress, my power
of locomotion began to fail. Only with a great effort could I move at
all among the stars, and then but slowly, and ever more slowly. Soon I
should find myself pinned fast in space like a fly in a collection; but
lonely, eternally alone. Yes, surely this was my special Hell.

I pulled myself together. I reminded myself that even if this was to be
my fate, it was no great matter. The Earth could very well do without
me. And even if there was no other living world anywhere in the cosmos,
still, the Earth itself had life, and might wake to far fuller life. And
even though I had lost my native planet, still, that beloved world was
real. Besides, my whole adventure was a miracle, and by continued
miracle might I not stumble on some other Earth? I remembered that I had
undertaken a high pilgrimage, and that I was man's emissary to the
stars.

With returning courage my power of locomotion returned. Evidently it
depended on a vigorous and self-detached mentality. My recent mood of
self-pity and earthward-yearning had hampered it.

Resolving to explore a new region of the galaxy, where perhaps there
would be more of the older stars and a greater hope of planets, I headed
in the direction of a remote and populous cluster. From the faintness of
the individual members of this vaguely speckled ball of light I guessed
that it must be very far afield. On and on I traveled in the darkness.
As I never turned aside to search, my course through the ocean of space
never took me near enough to any star to reveal it as a disc. The lights
of heaven streamed remotely past me like the lights of distant ships.
After a voyage during which I lost all measure of time I found myself in
a great desert, empty of stars, a gap between two star-streams, a cleft
in the galaxy. The Milky Way surrounded me, and in all directions lay
the normal dust of distant stars; but there were no considerable lights,
save the thistle-down of the remote cluster which was my goal.

This unfamiliar sky disturbed me with a sense of my increasing
dissociation from my home. It was almost a comfort to note, beyond the
furthest stars of our galaxy, the minute smudges that were alien
galaxies, incomparably more distant than the deepest recesses of the
Milky Way; and to be reminded that, in spite of all my headlong and
miraculous traveling, I was still within my native galaxy, within the
same little cell of the cosmos where she, my life's friend, still lived.
I was surprised, by the way, that so many of the alien galaxies appeared
to the naked eye, and that the largest was a pale, cloudy mark bigger
than the moon in the terrestrial sky.

By contrast with the remote galaxies, on whose appearance all my
voyaging failed to make impression, the star-cluster ahead of me was now
visibly expanding. Soon after I had crossed the great emptiness between
the star-streams, my cluster confronted me as a huge cloud of
brilliants. Presently I was passing through a more populous area, and
then the cluster itself opened out ahead of me, covering the whole
forward sky with its congested lights. As a ship approaching port
encounters other craft, so I came upon and passed star after star. When
I had penetrated into the heart of the cluster, I was in a region far
more populous than any that I had explored. On every side the sky blazed
with suns, many of which appeared far brighter than Venus in the Earth's
sky. I felt the exhilaration of a traveler who, after an ocean crossing,
enters harbors by night and finds himself surrounded by the lights of a
metropolis. In this congested region, I told myself, many close
approaches must have occurred, many planetary systems must have been
formed. Once more I looked for middle-aged stars of the sun's type. All
that I had passed hitherto were young giants, great as the whole solar
system. After further searching I found a few likely stars, but none had
planets. I found also many double and triple stars, describing their
incalculable orbits; and great continents of gas, in which new stars
were condensing. At last, at last I found a planetary system. With
almost insupportable hope I circled among these worlds; but all were
greater than Jupiter, and all were molten. Again I hurried from star to
star. I must have visited thousands, but all in vain. Sick and lonely I
fled out of the cluster. It dwindled behind me into a ball of down,
sparkling with dew-drops. In front of me a great tract of darkness
blotted out a section of the Milky Way and the neighboring area of
stars, save for a few near lights which lay between me and the obscuring
opacity. The billowy edges of this huge cloud of gas or dust were
revealed by the glancing rays of bright stars beyond it. The sight moved
me with self-pity; on so many nights at home had I seen the edges of
dark clouds silvered just so by moonlight. But the cloud which now
opposed me could have swallowed not merely whole worlds, not merely
countless planetary systems, but whole constellations.

Once more my courage failed me. Miserably I tried to shut out the
immensities by closing my eyes. But I had neither eyes nor eyelids. I
was a disembodied, wandering view-point. I tried to conjure up the
little interior of my home, with the curtains drawn and the fire
dancing. I tried to persuade myself that all this horror of darkness and
distance and barren incandescence was a dream, that I was dozing by the
fire, that at any moment I might wake, that she would reach over from
her sewing and touch me and smile. But the stars still held me prisoner.

Again, though with failing strength, I set about my search. And after I
had wandered from star to star for a period that might have been days or
years or aeons, luck or some guardian spirit directed me to a certain
sun-like star; and looking outwards from this center, I caught sight of
a little point of light, moving, with my movement, against the patterned
sky.  As I leapt toward it, I saw another, and another. Here was indeed
a planetary system much like my own. So obsessed was I with human
standards that I sought out at once the most earth-like of these worlds.
And amazingly earth-like it appeared, as its disc swelled before me, or
below me. Its atmosphere was evidently less dense than ours, for the
outlines of unfamiliar continents and oceans were very plainly visible.

As on the earth, the dark sea brilliantly reflected the sun's image.
White cloud-tracts lay here and there over the seas and the lands,
which, as on my own planet, were mottled green and brown. But even from
this height I saw that the greens were more vivid and far more blue than
terrestrial vegetation. I noted, also, that on this planet there was
less ocean than land, and that the centers of the great continents were
chiefly occupied by dazzling creamy-white deserts.



CHAPTER 3

THE OTHER EARTH

1. ON THE OTHER EARTH

AS I slowly descended toward the surface of the little planet, I found
myself searching for a land which promised to be like England. But no
sooner did I realize what I was doing than I reminded myself that
conditions here would be entirely different from terrestrial conditions,
and that it was very unlikely that I should find intelligent beings at
all. If such beings existed, they would probably be quite
incomprehensible to me. Perhaps they would be huge spiders or creeping
jellies. How could I hope ever to make contact with such monsters?

After circling about at random for some time over the filmy clouds and
the forests, over the dappled plains and prairies and the dazzling
stretches of desert, I selected a maritime country in the temperate
zone, a brilliantly green peninsula. When I had descended almost to the
ground, I was amazed at the verdure of the country-side. Here
unmistakably was vegetation, similar to ours in essential character, but
quite unfamiliar in detail. The fat, or even bulbous, leaves reminded me
of our desert-flora, but here the stems were lean and wiry. Perhaps the
most striking character of this vegetation was its color, which was a
vivid blue-green, like the color of vineyards that have been treated
with copper salts. I was to discover later that the plants of this world
had indeed learnt to protect themselves by means of copper sulphate from
the microbes and the insect-like pests which formerly devastated this
rather dry planet.

I skimmed over a brilliant prairie scattered with Prussian blue bushes.
The sky also attained a depth of blue quite unknown on earth, save at
great altitudes. There were a few low yet cirrus clouds, whose feathery
character I took to be due to the tenuousness of the atmosphere. This
was borne out by the fact that, though my descent had taken place in the
forenoon of a summer's day, several stars managed to pierce the almost
nocturnal sky. All exposed surfaces were very intensely illuminated. The
shadows of the nearer bushes were nearly black. Some distant objects,
rather like buildings, but probably mere rocks, appeared to be blocked
out in ebony and snow. Altogether the landscape was one of unearthly and
fantastical beauty.

I glided with wingless flight over the surface of the planet, through
glades, across tracts of fractured rock, along the banks of streams.
Presently I came to a wide region covered by neat, parallel rows of
fern-like plants, bearing masses of nuts on the lower surfaces of their
leaves. It was almost impossible to believe that this vegetable
regimentation had not been intelligently planned. Or could it after all
be merely a natural phenomenon not known on my own planet? Such was my
surprise that my power of locomotion, always subject to emotional
interference, now began to fail me. I reeled in the air like a drunk
man. Pulling myself together, I staggered on over the ranked crops
toward a rather large object which lay some distance from me beside a
strip of bare ground. Presently, to my amazement, my stupefaction, this
object revealed itself as a plow. It was rather a queer instrument, but
there was no mistaking the shape of the blade, which was rusty, and
obviously made of iron. There were two iron handles, and chains for
attachment to a beast of burden. It was difficult to believe that I was
many light-years distant from England. Looking round, I saw an
unmistakable cart track, and a bit of dirty ragged cloth hanging on a
bush. Yet overhead was the unearthly sky, full noon with stars.

I followed the lane through a little wood of queer bushes, whose large
fat drooping leaves had cherry-like fruits along their edges. Suddenly,
round a bend in the lane, I came upon a man. Or so at first he seemed to
my astounded and star-weary sight. I should not have been so surprised
by the strangely human character of this creature had I at this early
stage understood the forces that controlled my adventure. Influences
which I shall later describe doomed me to discover first such worlds as
were most akin to my own. Meanwhile the reader may well conceive my
amazement at this strange encounter. I had always supposed that man was
a unique being. An inconceivably complex conjunction of circumstances
had produced him, and it was not to be supposed that such conditions
would be repeated anywhere in the universe. Yet here, on the very first
globe to be explored, was an obvious peasant. Approaching him, I saw
that he was not quite so like terrestrial man as he seemed at a
distance; but he was a man for all that. Had God, then, peopled the
whole universe with our kind? Did he perhaps in very truth make us in
his image? It was incredible. To ask such questions proved that I had
lost my mental balance.

As I was a mere disembodied view-point, I was able to observe without
being observed. I floated about him as he strode along the lane. He was
an erect biped and in general plan definitely human. I had no means of
judging his height, but he must have been approximately of normal
terrestrial stature, or at least not smaller than a pigmy and not taller
than a giant. He was of slender build. His legs were almost like a
bird's, and enclosed in rough narrow trousers. Above the waist he was
naked, displaying a disproportionately large thorax, shaggy with
greenish hair. He had two short but powerful arms, and huge shoulder
muscles. His skin was dark and ruddy, and dusted plentifully with bright
green down. All his contours were uncouth, for the details of muscles,
sinews and joints were very plainly different from our own. His neck was
curiously long and supple. His head I can best describe by saying that
most of the brain-pan, covered with a green thatch, seemed to have
slipped backwards and downwards over the nape. His two very human eyes
peered from under the eaves of hair. An oddly projecting, almost
spout-like mouth made him look as though he were whistling. Between the
eyes, and rather above them, was a pair of great equine nostrils which
were constantly in motion. The bridge of the nose was represented by an
elevation in the thatch, reaching from the nostrils backwards over the
top of the head. There were no visible ears. I discovered later that the
auditory organs opened into the nostrils.

Clearly, although evolution on this Earth-like planet must have taken a
course on the whole surprisingly like that which had produced my own
kind, there must also have been many divergencies.

The stranger wore not only boots but gloves, seemingly of tough leather.
His boots were extremely short. I was to discover later that the feet of
this race, the "Other Men," as I called them, were rather like the feet
of an ostrich or a camel. The instep consisted of three great toes grown
together. In place of the heel there was an additional broad, stumpy
toe. The hands were without palms. Each was a bunch of three gristly
fingers and a thumb.

The aim of this book is not to tell of my own adventures but to give
some idea of the worlds which I visited. I shall therefore not recount
in detail how I established myself among the Other Men. Of myself it is
enough to say a few words. When I had studied this agriculturalist for a
while, I began to be strangely oppressed by his complete unawareness, of
myself. With painful clearness I realized that the purpose of my
pilgrimage was not merely scientific observation, but also the need to
effect some kind of mental and spiritual traffic with other worlds, for
mutual enrichment and community. How should I ever be able to achieve
this end unless I could find some means of communication? It was not
until I had followed my companion to his home, and had spent many days
in that little circular stone house with roof of mudded wicker, that I
discovered the power of entering into his mind, of seeing through his
eyes, sensing through all his sense organs, perceiving his world just as
he perceived it, and following much of his thought and his emotional
life. Not till very much later, when I had passively "inhabited" many
individuals of the race, did I discover how to make my presence known,
and even to converse inwardly with my host.

This kind of internal "telepathic" intercourse, which was to serve me in
all my wanderings, was at first difficult, ineffective, and painful. But
in time I came to be able to live through the experiences of my host
with vividness and accuracy, while yet preserving my own individuality,
my own critical intelligence, my own desires and fears. Only when the
other had come to realize my presence within him could he, by a special
act of volition, keep particular thoughts secret from me.

It can well be understood that at first I found these alien minds quite
unintelligible. Their very sensations differed from my familiar
sensations in important respects. Their thoughts and all their emotions
and sentiments were strange to me. The traditional groundwork of these
minds, their most familiar concepts, were derived from a strange
history, and expressed in languages which to the terrestrial mind were
subtly misleading.

I spent on the Other Earth many "other years," wandering from mind to
mind and country to country, but I did not gain any clear understanding
of the psychology of the Other Men and the significance of their history
till I had encountered one of their philosophers, an aging but still
vigorous man whose eccentric and unpalatable views had prevented him
from attaining eminence. Most of my hosts, when they became aware of 'my
presence within them, regarded me either as an evil spirit or as a
divine messenger. The more sophisticated, however, assumed that I was a
mere disease, a symptom of insanity in themselves. They therefore
promptly applied to the local "Mental Sanitation Officer." After I had
spent, according to the local calendar, a year or so of bitter
loneliness among minds who refused to treat me as a human being, I had
the good fortune to come under the philosopher's notice. One of my
hosts, who complained of suffering from "voices," and visions of
"another world," appealed to the old man for help. Bvalltu, for such
approximately was the philosopher's name, the "11" being pronounced more
or less as in Welsh, Bvalltu effected a "cure" by merely inviting me to
accept the hospitality of his own mind, where, he said, he would very
gladly entertain me. It was with extravagant joy that I made contact at
last with a being who recognized in me a human personality.

2. A BUSY WORLD

So many important characteristics of this world-society need to be
described that I cannot spend much time on the more obvious features of
the planet and its race. Civilization had reached a stage of growth much
like that which was familiar to me. I was constantly surprised by the
blend of similarity and difference. Traveling over the planet I found
that cultivation had spread over most of the suitable areas, and that
industrialism was already far advanced in many countries. On the
prairies huge flocks of mammal-like creatures grazed and scampered.
Larger mammals, or quasi-mammals, were farmed on all the best pasture
land for food and leather. I say "quasi-mammal" because, though these
creatures were viviparous, they did not suckle. The chewed cud,
chemically treated in the maternal belly, was spat into the offspring's
mouth as a jet of pre-digested fluid. It was thus also that human
mothers fed their young.

The most important means of locomotion on the Other Earth was the
steam-train, but trains in this world were so bulky that they looked
like whole terraces of houses on the move. This remarkable railway
development was probably due to the great number and length of journeys
across deserts. Occasionally I traveled on steam-ships on the few and
small oceans, but marine transport was on the whole backward. The screw
propeller was unknown, its place being taken by paddle wheels.
Internal-combustion engines were used in road and desert transport.
Flying, owing to the rarified atmosphere, had not been achieved; but
rocket-propulsion was already used for long-distance transport of mails,
and for long-range bombardment in war. Its application to aeronautics
might come any day.

My first visit to the metropolis of one of the great empires of the
Other Earth was an outstanding experience. Everything was at once so
strange and so familiar. There were streets and many-windowed stores and
offices. In this old city the streets were narrow, and so congested was
the motor traffic that pedestrians were accommodated on special elevated
tracks slung beside the first-story windows and across the streets.

The crowds that streamed along these footpaths were as variegated as our
own. The men wore cloth tunics, and trousers surprisingly like the
trousers of Europe, save that the crease affected by the respectable was
at the side of the leg. The women, breastless and high-nostriled like
the men, were to be distinguished by their more tubular lips, whose
biological function it was to project food for the infant. In place of
skirts they disported green and glossy silk tights and little gawdy
knickers. To my unaccustomed vision the effect was inexpressibly vulgar.
In summer both sexes often appeared in the streets naked to the waist;
but they always wore gloves.

Here, then, was a host of persons who, in spite of their oddity, were as
essentially human as Londoners. They went about their private affairs
with complete assurance, ignorant that a spectator from another world
found them one and all grotesque, with their lack of forehead, their
great elevated quivering nostrils, their startlingly human eyes, their
spout-like mouths. There they were, alive and busy, shopping, staring,
talking. Children dragged at their mothers' hands. Old men with white
facial hair bowed over walking-stocks. Young men eyed young women. The
prosperous were easily to be distinguished from the unfortunate by their
newer and richer clothes, their confident and sometimes arrogant
carriage.

How can I describe in a few pages the distinctive character of a whole
teeming and storied world, so different from my own, yet so similar?
Here, as on my own planet, infants were being born every hour. Here, as
there, they clamored for food, and very soon for companionship. They
discovered what pain was, and what fear, and what loneliness, and love.
They grew up, molded by the harsh or kindly pressure of their fellows,
to be either well nurtured, generous, sound, or mentally crippled,
bitter, unwittingly vindictive. One and all they desperately craved the
bliss of true community; and very few, fewer here, perhaps, than in my
own world, found more than the vanishing flavor of it. They howled with
the pack and hounded with the pack. Starved both physically and
mentally, they brawled over the quarry and tore one another to pieces,
mad with hunger, physical or mental. Sometimes some of them paused and
asked what it was all for; and there followed a battle of words, but no
clear answer. Suddenly they were old and finished. Then, the span from
birth to death being an imperceptible instant of cosmical time, they
vanished.

This planet, being essentially of the terrestrial type, had produced a
race that was essentially human, though, so to speak, human in a
different key from the terrestrial. These continents were as variegated
as ours, and inhabited by a race as diversified as Homo sapiens. All the
modes and facets of the spirit manifested in our history had their
equivalents in the history of the Other Men. As with us, there had
been dark ages and ages of brilliance, phases of advancement and of
retreat, cultures predominantly material, and others in the main
intellectual, aesthetic, or spiritual. There were "Eastern" races and
"Western" races. There were empires, republics, dictatorships. Yet all
was different from the terrestrial. Many of the differences, of course,
were superficial; but there was also an underlying, deep-lying
difference which I took long to understand and will not yet describe. I
must begin by speaking of the biological equipment of the Other Men.
Their animal nature was at bottom much like ours. They responded with
anger, fear, hate, tenderness, curiosity, and so on, much as we respond.
In sensory equipment they were not unlike ourselves, save that in vision
they were less sensitive to color and more to form than is common with
us. The violent colors of the Other Earth appeared to me through the
eyes of its natives very subdued. In hearing also they were rather
ill-equipped. Though their auditory organs were as sensitive as ours to
faint sounds, they were poor discriminators. Music, such as we know,
never developed in this world.

In compensation, scent and taste developed amazingly. These beings
tasted not only with their mouths, but with then-moist black hands and
with their feet. They were thus afforded an extraordinarily rich and
intimate experience of their planet. Tastes of metals and woods, of sour
and sweet earths, of the many rocks, and of the innumerable shy or bold
flavors of plants crushed beneath the bare running feet, made up a whole
world unknown to terrestrial man.

The genitals also were equipped with taste organs. There were several
distinctive male and female patterns of chemical characteristics, each
powerfully attractive to the opposite sex. These were savored faintly by
contact of hands or feet with any part of the body, and with exquisite
intensity in copulation.

This surprising richness of gustatory experience made it very difficult
for me to enter fully into the thoughts of the Other Men. Taste played
as important a part in their imagery and conception as sight in our own.
Many ideas which terrestrial man has reached by way of sight, and which
even in their most abstract form still bear traces of their visual
origin, the Other Men conceived in terms of taste. For example, our
"brilliant," as applied to persons or ideas, they would translate by a
word whose literal meaning was "tasty." For "lucid" they would use a
term which in primitive times was employed by hunters to signify an
easily runnable taste-trail. To have "religious illumination" was to
"taste the meadows of heaven." Many of our non-visual concepts also were
rendered by means of taste. "Complexity" was "many flavored," a word
applied originally to the confusion of tastes round a drinking pool
frequented by many kinds of beasts. "Incompatibility" was derived from a
word meaning the disgust which certain human types felt for one another
on account of their flavors.

Differences of race, which in our world are chiefly conceived in terms
of bodily appearance, were for the Other Men almost entirely differences
of taste and smell. And as the races of the Other Men were much less
sharply localized than our own races, the strife between groups whose
flavors were repugnant to one another played a great part in history.
Each race tended to believe that its own flavor was characteristic of
all the finer mental qualities, was indeed an absolutely reliable label
of spiritual worth. In former ages the gustatory and olfactory
differences had, no doubt, been true signs of racial differences; but in
modern times, and in the more developed lands, there had been great
changes. Not only had the races ceased to be clearly localized, but also
industrial civilization had produced a crop of genetic changes which
rendered the old racial distinctions meaningless. The ancient flavors,
however, though they had by now no racial significance at all, and
indeed members of one family might have mutually repugnant flavors,
continued to have the traditional emotional effects. In each country
some particular flavor was considered the true hall-mark of the race of
that country, and all other flavors were despised, if not actually
condemned.

In the country which I came to know best the orthodox racial flavor was
a kind of saltness inconceivable to terrestrial man. My hosts regarded
themselves as the very salt of the earth. But as a matter of fact the
peasant whom I first "inhabited" was the only genuine pure salt man of
orthodox variety whom I ever encountered. The great majority of that
country's citizens attained their correct taste and smell by artificial
means. Those who were at least approximately salt, with some variety of
saltness, though not the ideal variety, were forever exposing the deceit
of their sour, sweet, or bitter neighbors. Unfortunately, though the
taste of the limbs could be fairly well disguised, no effective means
had been found for changing the flavor of copulation. Consequently newly
married couples were apt to make the most shattering discoveries about
one another on the wedding night. Since in the great majority of unions
neither party had the orthodox flavor, both were willing to pretend to
the world that all was well. But often there would turn out to be a
nauseating incompatibility between the two gustatory types. The whole
population was rotten with neuroses bred of these secret tragedies of
marriage. Occasionally, when one party was more or less of the orthodox
flavor, this genuinely salt partner would indignantly denounce the
impostor. The courts, the news bulletins, and the public would then join
in self-righteous protests.

Some "racial" flavors were too obtrusive to be disguised. One in
particular, a kind of bitter-sweet, exposed its possessor to extravagant
persecution in all but the most tolerant countries. In past times the
bitter-sweet race had earned a reputation of cunning and self-seeking,
and had been periodically massacred by its less intelligent neighbors.
But in the general biological ferment of modern times the bitter-sweet
flavor might crop up in any family. Woe, then, to the accursed infant,
and to all its relatives! Persecution was inevitable; unless indeed the
family was wealthy enough to purchase from the state "an honorary
salting" (or in the neighboring land, "an honorary sweetening"), which
removed the stigma.

In the more enlightened countries the whole racial superstition was
becoming suspect. There was a movement among the intelligentsia for
conditioning infants to tolerate every kind of human flavor, and for
discarding the deodorants and degustatants, and even the boots and
gloves, which civilized convention imposed.

Unfortunately this movement of toleration was hampered by one of the
consequences of industrialism. In the congested and unhealthy industrial
centers a new gustatory and olfactory type had appeared, apparently as a
biological mutation. In a couple of generations this sour, astringent,
and undisguisable flavor dominated in all the most disreputable
working-class quarters. To the fastidious palates of the well-to-do, it
was overwhelmingly nauseating and terrifying. In fact it became for them
an unconscious symbol, tapping all the secret guilt and fear and hate
which the oppressors felt for the oppressed.

In this world, as in our own, nearly all the chief means of production,
nearly all the land, mines, factories, railways, ships, were controlled
for private profit by a small minority of the population. These
privileged individuals were able to force the masses to work for them on
pain of starvation. The tragic farce inherent in such a system was
already approaching. The owners directed the energy of the workers
increasingly toward the production of more means of production rather
than to the fulfilment of the needs of individual life. For machinery
might bring profit to the owners; bread would not. With the increasing
competition of machine with machine, profits declined, and therefore
wages, and therefore effective demand for goods. Marketless products
were destroyed, though bellies were unfed and backs unclad.
Unemployment, disorder, and stern repression increased as the economic
system disintegrated. A familiar story!

As conditions deteriorated, and the movements of charity and
state-charity became less and less able to cope with the increasing mass
of unemployment and destitution, the new pariah-race became more and
more psychologically useful to the hate-needs of the scared, but still
powerful, prosperous. The theory was spread that these wretched beings
were the result of secret systematic race-pollution by riff-raff
immigrants, and that they deserved no consideration whatever. They were
therefore allowed only the basest forms of employment and the harshest
conditions of work. When unemployment had become a serious social
problem, practically the whole pariah stock was workless and destitute.
It was of course easily believed that unemployment, far from being due
to the decline of capitalism, was due to the worthlessness of the
pariahs.

At the time of my visit the working class had become tainted through and
through by the pariah stock, and there was a vigorous movement afoot
amongst the wealthy and the official classes to institute slavery for
pariahs and half-pariahs, so that these might be openly treated as the
cattle which in fact they were. In view of the danger of continued
race-pollution, some politicians urged wholesale slaughter of the
pariahs, or, at the least, universal sterilization. Others pointed out
that, as a supply of cheap labor was necessary to society, it would be
wiser merely to keep their numbers down by working them to an early
death in occupations which those of "pure race" would never accept.
This, at any rate, should be done in times of prosperity; but in times
of decline, the excess population could be allowed to starve, or might
be used up in the physiological laboratories.

The persons who first dared to suggest this policy were scourged by the
whips of generous popular indignation. But their policy was in fact
adopted; not explicitly but by tacit consent, and in the absence of any
more constructive plan.

The first time that I was taken through the poorest quarter of the city
I was surprised to see that, though there were large areas of slum
property far more squalid than anything in England, there were also many
great clean blocks of tenements worthy of Vienna. These were surrounded
by gardens, which were crowded with wretched tents and shanties. The
grass was worn away, the bushes damaged, the flowers trampled.
Everywhere men, women, and children, all filthy and ragged, were idling.

I learned that these noble buildings had been erected before the
world-economic-crisis (familiar phrase!) by a millionaire who had made
his money in trading an opium-like drug. He presented the buildings to
the City Council, and was gathered to heaven by way of the peerage. The
more deserving and less unsavory poor were duly housed; but care was
taken to fix the rent high enough to exclude the pariah-race. Then came
the crisis. One by one the tenants failed to pay their rent, and were
ejected. Within a year the buildings were almost empty.

There followed a very curious sequence of events, and one which, as I
was to discover, was characteristic of this strange world. Respectable
public opinion, though vindictive toward the unemployed, was
passionately tender toward the sick. In falling ill, a man acquired a
special sanctity, and exercised a claim over all healthy persons. Thus
no sooner did any of the wretched campers succumb to a serious disease
than he was carried off to be cared for by all the resources of medical
science. The desperate paupers soon discovered how things stood, and did
all in their power to fall sick. So successful were they, that the
hospitals were soon filled. The empty tenements were therefore hastily
fitted out to receive the increasing flood of patients.

Observing these and other farcical events, I was reminded of my own
race. But though the Other Men were in many ways so like us, I suspected
increasingly that some factor still hidden from me doomed them to a
frustration which my own nobler species need never fear. Psychological
mechanisms which in our case are tempered with common sense or moral
sense stood out in this world in flagrant excess. Yet it was not true
that Other Man was less intelligent or less moral than man of my own
species. In abstract thought and practical invention he was at least our
equal. Many of his most recent advances in physics and astronomy had
passed beyond our present attainment. I noticed, however, that
psychology was even more chaotic than with us, and that social thought
was strangely perverted.

In radio and television, for instance, the Other Men were technically
far ahead of us, but the use to which they put their astounding
inventions was disastrous. In civilized countries everyone but the
pariahs carried a pocket receiving set. As the Other Men had no music,
this may seem odd; but since they lacked newspapers, radio was the only
means by which the man in the street could learn the lottery and
sporting results which were his staple mental diet. The place of music,
moreover, was taken by taste- and smell-themes, which were translated
into patterns of ethereal undulation, transmitted by all the great
national stations, and restored to their original form in the pocket
receivers and taste-batteries of the population. These instruments
afforded intricate stimuli to the taste organs and scent organs of the
hand. Such was the power of this kind of entertainment that both men and
women were nearly always seen with one hand in a pocket. A special wave
length had been allotted to the soothing of infants.

A sexual receiving set had been put upon the market, and programs were
broadcast for it in many countries; but not in all. This extraordinary
invention was a combination of radio--touch, taste, odor, and sound. It
worked not through the sense organs, but direct stimulation of the
appropriate brain-centers. The recipient wore a specially constructed
skullcap, which transmitted to him from a remote studio the embraces of
some delectable and responsive woman, as they were then actually being
experienced by a male "love-broadcaster" or as electromagnetically
recorded on a steel tape on some earlier occasion. Controversies had
arisen about the morality of sexual broadcasting. Some countries
permitted programs for males but not for females, wishing to preserve
the innocence of the purer sex. Elsewhere the clerics had succeeded in
crushing the whole project on the score that radio-sex, even for men
alone, would be a diabolical substitute for a certain much desired and
jealously guarded religious experience, called the immaculate union, of
which I shall tell in the sequel. Well did the priests know that their
power depended largely on their ability to induce this luscious ecstasy
in their flock by means of ritual and other psychological techniques.

Militarists also were strongly opposed to the new invention; for in the
cheap and efficient production of illusory sexual embraces they saw a
danger even more serious than contraception. The supply of cannon-fodder
would decline.

Since in all the more respectable countries broadcasting had been put
under the control of retired soldiers or good churchmen, the new device
was at first adopted only in the more commercial and the more
disreputable states. From their broadcasting stations the embraces of
popular "radio love-stars" and even of impecunious aristocrats were
broadcast along with advertisements of patent medicines, taste-proof
gloves, lottery results, savors, and degustatants.

The principle of radio-brain-stimulation was soon developed much
further. Programs of all the most luscious or piquant experiences were
broadcast in all countries, and could be picked up by simple receivers
that were within the means of all save the pariahs. Thus even the
laborer and the factory hand could have the pleasures of a banquet
without expense and subsequent repletion, the delights of proficient
dancing without the trouble of learning the art, the thrills of
motor-racing without danger. In an ice-bound northern home he could bask
on tropical beaches, and in the tropics indulge in winter sports.
Governments soon discovered that the new invention gave them a cheap and
effective kind of power over their subjects. Slum-conditions could be
tolerated if there was an unfailing supply of illusory luxury. Reforms
distasteful to the authorities could be shelved if they could be
represented as inimical to the national radio-system. Strikes and riots
could often be broken by the mere threat to close down the broadcasting
studios, or alternatively by flooding the ether at a critical moment
with some saccharine novelty.

The fact that the political Left Wing opposed the further development of
radio amusements made Governments and the propertied classes the more
ready to accept it. The Communists, for the dialectic of history on this
curiously earth-like planet had produced a party deserving that name,
strongly condemned the scheme. In their view it was pure Capitalist
dope, calculated to prevent the otherwise inevitable dictatorship of the
proletariat.

The increasing opposition of the Communists made it possible to buy off
the opposition of their natural enemies, the priests and soldiers. It
was arranged that religious services should in future occupy a larger
proportion of broadcasting time, and that a tithe of all licensing fees
should be allocated to the churches. The offer to broadcast the
immaculate union, however, was rejected by the clerics. As an additional
concession it was agreed that all married members of the staffs of
Broadcasting Authorities must, on pain of dismissal, prove that they had
never spent a night away from their wives (or husbands). It was also
agreed to weed out all those B.A. employees who were suspected of
sympathy with such disreputable ideals as pacifism and freedom of
expression. The soldiers were further appeased by a state-subsidy for
maternity, a tax on bachelors, and regular broadcasting of military
propaganda.

During my last years on the Other Earth a system was invented by which a
man could retire to bed for life and spend all his time receiving radio
programs. His nourishment and all his bodily functions were attended to
by doctors and nurses attached to the Broadcasting Authority. In place
of exercise he received periodic massage. Participation in the scheme
was at first an expensive luxury, but its inventors hoped to make it at
no distant date available to all. It was even expected that in time
medical and menial attendants would cease to be necessary. A vast system
of automatic food-production, and distribution of liquid pabulum by
means of pipes leading to the mouths of the recumbent subjects, would be
complemented by an intricate sewage system. Electric massage could be
applied at will by pressing a button. Medical supervision would be
displaced by an automatic endocrine-compensation system. This would
enable the condition of the patient's blood to regulate itself
automatically by tapping from the communal drug-pipes whatever chemicals
were needed for correct physiological balance.

Even in the case of broadcasting itself the human element would no
longer be needed, for all possible experiences would have been already
recorded from the most exquisite living examples. These would be
continuously broadcast in a great number of alternative programs.

A few technicians and organizers might still be needed to superintend
the system; but, properly distributed, their work would entail for each
member of the World Broadcasting Authority's staff no more than a few
hours of interesting activity each week.

Children, if future generations were required, would be produced
ectogenetically. The World Director of Broadcasting would be requested
to submit psychological and physiological specifications of the ideal
"listening breed." Infants produced in accordance with this pattern
would then be educated by special radio programs to prepare them for
adult radio life. They would never leave their cots, save to pass by
stages to the full-sized beds of maturity. At the latter end of life, if
medical science did not succeed in circumventing senility and death, the
individual would at least be able to secure a painless end by pressing
an appropriate button.

Enthusiasm for this astounding project spread rapidly in all civilized
countries, but certain forces of reaction were bitterly opposed to it.
The old-fashioned religious people and the militant nationalists both
affirmed that it was man's glory to be active. The religious held that
only in self-discipline, mortification of the flesh, and constant
prayer, could the soul be fitted for eternal life. The nationalists of
each country declared that their own people had been given a sacred
trust to rule the baser kinds, and that in any case only the martial
virtues could ensure the spirit's admittance to Valhalla.

Many of the great economic masters, though they had originally favored
radio-bliss in moderation as an opiate for the discontented workers, now
turned against it. Their craving was for power; and for power they
needed slaves whose labor they could command for their great industrial
ventures. They therefore devised an instrument which was at once an
opiate and a spur. By every method of propaganda they sought to rouse
the passions of nationalism and racial hatred. They created, in fact,
the "Other Fascism," complete with lies, with mystical cult of race and
state, with scorn of reason, with praise of brutal mastery, with appeal
at once to the vilest and to the generous motives of the deluded young.

Opposed to all these critics of radio-bliss, and equally opposed to
radio-bliss itself, there was in each country a small and bewildered
party which asserted that the true goal of human activity was the
creation of a world-wide community of awakened and intelligently
creative persons, related by mutual insight and respect, and by the
common task of fulfilling the potentiality of the human spirit on earth.
Much of their doctrine was a re-statement of the teachings of religious
seers of a fine long past, but it had also been deeply influenced by
contemporary science. This party, however, was misunderstood by the
scientists, cursed by the clerics, ridiculed by the militarists, and
ignored by the advocates of radio-bliss.

Now at this time economic confusion had been driving the great
commercial empires of the Other Earth into more and more desperate
competition for markets. These economic rivalries had combined with
ancient tribal passions of fear and hate and pride to bring about an
interminable series of war scares each of which threatened universal
Armageddon.

In this situation the radio-enthusiasts pointed out that, if their
policy were accepted, war would never occur, and on the other hand that,
if a world-war broke out, their policy would be indefinitely postponed.
They contrived a worldwide peace movement; and such was the passion for
radio-bliss that the demand for peace swept all countries. An
International Broadcasting Authority was at last founded, to propagate
the radio gospel, compose the differences between the empires, and
eventually to take over the sovereignty of the world.

Meanwhile the earnestly "religious" and the sincere militarists, rightly
dismayed at the baseness of the motives behind the new internationalism,
but in their own manner equally wrong-headed, determined to save the
Other Men in spite of themselves by goading the peoples into war. All
the forces of propaganda and financial corruption were heroically
wielded to foment the passions of nationalism. Even so, the greed for
radio-bliss was by now so general and so passionate, that the war party
would never have succeeded had it not been for the wealth of the great
armorers, and their experience in fomenting strife.

Trouble was successfully created between one of the older commercial
empires and a certain state which had only recently adopted mechanical
civilization, but was already a Great Power, and a Power in desperate
need of markets. Radio, which formerly had been the main force making
for cosmopolitanism, became suddenly in each country the main stimulus
to nationalism. Morning, noon and night, every civilized people was
assured that enemies, whose flavor was of course subhuman and foul, were
plotting its destruction. Armament scares, spy stories, accounts of the
barbarous and sadistic behavior of neighboring peoples, created in every
country such uncritical suspicion and hate that war became inevitable. A
dispute arose over the control of a frontier province. During those
critical days Bvalltu and I happened to be in a large provincial town. I
shall never forget how the populace plunged into almost maniacal hate.
All thought of human brotherhood, and even of personal safety, was swept
away by a savage blood-lust. Panic-stricken governments began projecting
long-range rocket bombs at their dangerous neighbors. Within a few weeks
several of the capitals of the Other Earth had been destroyed from the
air. Each people now began straining every nerve to do more hurt than it
received.

Of the horrors of this war, of the destruction of city after city, of
the panic-stricken, starving hosts that swarmed into the open country,
looting and killing, of the starvation and disease, of the
disintegration of the social services, of the emergence of ruthless
military dictatorships, of the steady or catastrophic decay of culture
and of all decency and gentleness in personal relations, of this there
is no need to speak in detail.

Instead, I shall try to account for the finality of the disaster which
overtook the Other Men. My own human kind, in similar circumstances,
would never, surely, have allowed itself to be so completely
overwhelmed. No doubt, we ourselves are faced with the possibility of a
scarcely less destructive war; but, whatever the agony that awaits us,
we shall almost certainly recover. Foolish we may be, but we always
manage to avoid falling into the abyss of downright madness. At the last
moment sanity falteringly reasserts itself. Not so with the Other Men.

3. PROSPECTS OF THE RACE

The longer I stayed on the Other Earth, the more I suspected that there
must be some important underlying difference between this human race and
my own. In some sense the difference was obviously one of balance. Homo
sapiens was on the whole better integrated, more gifted with common
sense, less apt to fall into extravagance through mental dissociation.

Perhaps the most striking example of the extravagance of the Other Men
was the part played by religion in their more advanced societies.
Religion was a much greater power than on my own planet; and the
religious teachings of the prophets of old were able to kindle even my
alien and sluggish heart with fervor. Yet religion, as it occurred
around me in contemporary society, was far from edifying.

I must begin by explaining that in the development of religion on the
Other Earth gustatory sensation had played a very great part. Tribal
gods had of course been endowed with the taste-characters most moving to
the tribe's own members. Later, when monotheisms arose, descriptions of
God's power, his wisdom, his justice, his benevolence, were accompanied
by descriptions of his taste. In mystical literature God was often
likened to an ancient and mellow wine; and some reports of religious
experience suggested that this gustatory-ecstasy was in many ways akin
to the reverent zest of our own wine-tasters, savoring some rare
vintage.

Unfortunately, owing to the diversity of gustatory human types, there
had seldom been any widespread agreement as to the taste of God.
Religious wars had been waged to decide whether he was in the main sweet
or salt, or whether his preponderant flavor was one of the many
gustatory characters which my own race cannot conceive. Some teachers
insisted that only the feet could taste him, others only the hands or
the mouth, others that he could be experienced only in the subtle
complex of gustatory flavors known as the immaculate union, which was a
sensual, and mainly sexual, ecstasy induced by contemplation of
intercourse with the deity.

Other teachers declared that, though God was indeed tasty, it was not
through any bodily instrument but to the naked spirit that his essence
was revealed; and that his was a flavor more subtle and delicious than
the flavor of the beloved, since it included all that was most fragrant
and spiritual in man, and infinitely more.

Some went so far as to declare that God should be thought of not as a
person at all but as actually being this flavor. Bvalltu used to say,
"Either God is the universe, or he is the flavor of creativity pervading
all things."

Some ten or fifteen centuries earlier, when religion, so far as I could
tell, was most vital, there were no churches or priesthoods; but every
man's life was dominated by religious ideas to an extent which to me was
almost incredible. Later, churches and priesthoods had returned, to play
an important part in preserving what was now evidently a declining
religious consciousness. Still later, a few centuries before the
Industrial Revolution, institutional religion had gained such a hold on
the most civilized peoples that three-quarters of their total income was
spent on the upkeep of religious institutions. The working classes,
indeed, who slaved for the owners in return for a mere pittance, gave
much of their miserable earnings to the priests, and lived in more
abject squalor than need have been.

Science and industry had brought one of those sudden and extreme
revolutions of thought which were so characteristic of the Other Men.
Nearly all the churches were destroyed or turned into temporary
factories or industrial museums. Atheism, lately persecuted, became
fashionable. All the best minds turned agnostic. More recently, however,
apparently in horror at the effects of a materialistic culture which was
far more cynical and blatant than our own, the most industrialized
peoples began to turn once more to religion. A spiritistic foundation
was provided for natural science. The old churches were re-sanctified,
and so many new religious edifices were built that they were soon as
plentiful as cinema houses with us. Indeed, the new churches gradually
absorbed the cinema, and provided non-stop picture shows in which
sensual orgies and ecclesiastical propaganda were skilfully blended.

At the time of my visit the churches had regained all their lost power.
Radio had indeed at one time competed with them, but was successfully
absorbed. They still refused to broadcast the immaculate union, which
gained fresh prestige from the popular belief that it was too spiritual
to be transmitted on the ether. The more advanced clerics, however, had
agreed that if ever the universal system of "radio-bliss" was
established, this difficulty might be overcome. Communism, meanwhile,
still maintained its irreligious convention; but in the two great
Communist countries the officially organized "irreligion" was becoming a
religion in all but name. It had its institutions, its priesthood, its
ritual, its morality, its system of absolution, its metaphysical
doctrines, which, though devoutly materialistic, were none the less
superstitious. And the flavor of deity had been displaced by the flavor
of the proletariat.

Religion, then, was a very real force in the life of all these peoples.
But there was something puzzling about their devoutness. In a sense it
was sincere, and even beneficial; for in very small personal temptations
and very obvious and stereotyped moral choices, the Other Men were far
more conscientious than my own kind. But I discovered that the typical
modern Other Man was conscientious only in conventional situations, and
that in genuine moral sensibility he was strangely lacking. Thus, though
practical generosity and superficial comradeship were more usual than
with us, the most diabolic mental persecution was perpetrated with a
clear conscience. The more sensitive had always to be on their guard.
The deeper kinds of intimacy and mutual reliance were precarious and
rare. In this passionately social world, loneliness dogged the spirit.
People were constantly "getting together," but they never really got
there. Everyone was terrified of being alone with himself; yet in
company, in spite of the universal assumption of comradeship, these
strange beings remained as remote from one another as the stars. For
everyone searched his neighbor's eyes for the image of himself, and
never saw anything else. Or if he did, he was outraged and terrified.

Another perplexing fact about the religious life of the Other Men at the
time of my visit was this. Though all were devout, and blasphemy was
regarded with horror, the general attitude to the deity was one of
blasphemous commercialism. Men assumed that the flavor of deity could be
bought for all eternity with money or with ritual. Further, the God whom
they worshipped with the superb and heart-searching language of an
earlier age was now conceived either as a just but jealous employer or
as an indulgent parent, or else as sheer physical energy. The crowning
vulgarity was the conviction that in no earlier age had religion been so
widespread and so enlightened. It was almost universally agreed that the
profound teachings of the prophetic era were only now being understood
in the sense in which they had originally been intended by the prophets
themselves. Contemporary writers and broadcasters claimed to be
re-interpreting the scriptures to suit the enlightened religious needs
of an age which called itself the Age of Scientific Religion. Now behind
all the complacency which characterized the civilization of the Other
Men before the outbreak of the war I had often detected a vague
restlessness and anxiety. Of course for the most part people went about
their affairs with the same absorbed and self-satisfied interest as on
my own planet. They were far too busy making a living, marrying, rearing
families, trying to get the better of one another, to spare time for
conscious doubt about the aim of life. Yet they had often the air of one
who has forgotten some very important thing and is racking his brains to
recover it, or of an aging preacher who uses the old stirring phrases
without clear apprehension of their significance. Increasingly I
suspected that this race, in spite of all its triumphs, was now living
on the great ideas of its past, mouthing concepts that it no longer had
the sensibility to understand, paying verbal homage to ideals which it
could no longer sincerely will, and behaving within a system of
institutions many of which could only be worked successfully by minds of
a slightly finer temper. These institutions, I suspected, must have been
created by a race endowed not only with much greater intelligence, but
with a much stronger and more comprehensive capacity for community than
was now possible on the Other Earth. They seemed to be based on the
assumption that men were on the whole kindly, reasonable and
self-disciplined.

I had often questioned Bvalltu on this subject, but he had always turned
my question aside. It will be remembered that, though I had access to
all his thoughts so long as he did not positively wish to withhold them,
he could always, if he made a special effort, think privately. I had
long suspected that he was keeping something from me, when at last he
told me the strange and tragic facts.

It was a few days after the bombardment of the metropolis of his
country. Through Bvalltu's eyes and the goggles of his gas-mask I saw
the results of that bombardment. We had missed the horror itself, but
had attempted to return to the city to play some part in the rescue
work. Little could be done. So great was the heat still radiated from
the city's incandescent heart, that we could not penetrate beyond the
first suburb. Even there, the streets were obliterated, choked with
fallen buildings. Human bodies, crushed and charred, projected here and
there from masses of tumbled masonry. Most of the population was hidden
under the ruins. In the open spaces many lay gassed. Salvage parties
impotently wandered. Between the smoke-clouds the Other Sun occasionally
appeared, and even a daytime star.

After clambering among the ruins for some time, seeking vainly to give
help, Bvalltu sat down. The devastation round about us seemed to "loosen
his tongue," if I may use such a phrase to express a sudden frankness in
his thinking toward myself. I had said something to the effect that a
future age would look back on all this madness and destruction with
amazement. He sighed through his gas-mask, and said, "My unhappy race
has probably now doomed itself irrevocably." I expostulated; for though
ours was about the fortieth city to be destroyed, there would surely
some day be a recovery, and the race would at last pass through this
crisis and go forward from strength to strength. Bvalltu then told me of
the strange matters which, he said, he had often intended to tell me,
but somehow he had always shunned doing so. Though many scientists and
students of the contemporary world-society had now some vague suspicion
of the truth, it was clearly known only to himself and a few others.

The species, he said, was apparently subject to strange and
long-drawn-out fluctuations of nature, fluctuations which lasted for
some twenty thousand years. All races in all climates seemed to manifest
this vast rhythm of the spirit, and to suffer it simultaneously. Its
cause was unknown. Though it seemed to be due to an influence affecting
the whole planet at once, perhaps it actually radiated from a single
starting point, but spread rapidly into all lands. Very recently an
advanced scientist had suggested that it might be due to variations in
the intensity of "cosmic rays." Geological evidence had established that
such a fluctuation of cosmical radiation did occur, caused perhaps by
variations in a neighboring cluster of young stars. It was still
doubtful whether the psychological rhythm and the astronomical rhythm
coincided, but many facts pointed to the conclusion that when the rays
were more violent the human spirit declined.

Bvalltu was not convinced by this story. On the whole he inclined to the
opinion that the rhythmical waxing and waning of human mentality was due
to causes nearer home. Whatever the true explanation, it was almost
certain that a high degree of civilization had been attained many times
in the past, and that some potent influence had over and over again
damped down the mental vigor of the human race. In the troughs of these
vast waves Other Man sank to a state of mental and spiritual dullness
more abject than anything which my own race had ever known since it
awoke from the subhuman. But at the wave's crest man's intellectual
power, moral integrity, and spiritual insight seem to have risen to a
pitch that we should regard as superhuman.

Again and again the race would emerge from savagery, and pass through
barbarian culture into a phase of worldwide brilliance and sensibility.
Whole populations would conceive simultaneously an ever-increasing
capacity for generosity, self-knowledge, self-discipline, for
dispassionate and penetrating thought and uncontaminated religious
feeling.

Consequently within a few centuries the whole world would blossom with
free and happy societies. Average human beings would attain an
unprecedented clarity of mind, and by massed action do away with all
grave social injustices and private cruelties. Subsequent generations,
inherently sound, and blessed with a favorable environment, would create
a world-wide Utopia of awakened beings.

Presently a general loosening of fiber would set in. The golden age
would be followed by a silver age. Living on the achievements of the
past, the leaders of thought would lose themselves in a jungle of
subtlety, or fall exhausted into mere slovenliness. At the same time
moral sensibility would decline. Men would become on the whole less
sincere, less self-searching, less sensitive to the needs of others, in
fact less capable of community. Social machinery, which had worked well
so long as citizens attained a certain level of humanity, would be
dislocated by injustice and corruption. Tyrants and tyrannical
oligarchies would set about destroying liberty. Hate-mad submerged
classes would give them good excuse. Little by little, though the
material benefits of civilization might smolder on for centuries, the
flame of the spirit would die down into a mere flicker in a few isolated
individuals. Then would come sheer barbarism, followed by the trough of
almost sub-human savagery.

On the whole there seemed to have been a higher achievement on the more
recent crests of the wave than on those of the "geological" past. So at
least some anthropologists persuaded themselves. It was confidently
believed that the present apex of civilization was the most brilliant of
all, that its best was as yet to come, and that by means of its unique
scientific knowledge it would discover how to preserve the mentality of
the race from a recurrence of deterioration.

The present condition of the species was certainly exceptional. In no
earlier recorded cycle had science and mechanization advanced to such
lengths. So far as could be inferred from the fragmentary relics of the
previous cycle, mechanical invention had never passed beyond the crude
machinery known in our own mid-nineteenth century. The still earlier
cycles, it was believed, stagnated at even earlier stages in their
industrial revolutions.

Now though it was generally assumed in intellectual circles that the
best was yet to be, Bvalltu and his friends were convinced that the
crest of the wave had already occurred many centuries ago. To most men,
of course, the decade before the war had seemed better and more
civilized than any earlier age. In their view civilization and
mechanization were almost identical, and never before had there been
such a triumph of mechanization. The benefits of a scientific
civilization were obvious. For the fortunate class there was more
comfort, better health, increased stature, a prolongation of youth, and
a system of technical knowledge so vast and intricate that no man could
know more than its outline or some tiny corner of its detail. Moreover,
increased communications had brought all the peoples into contact. Local
idiosyncrasies were fading out before the radio, the cinema, and the
gramophone. In comparison with these hopeful signs it was easily
overlooked that the human constitution, though strengthened by improved
conditions, was intrinsically less stable than formerly. Certain
disintegrative diseases were slowly but surely increasing. In
particular, diseases of the nervous system were becoming more common and
more pernicious. Cynics used to say that the mental hospitals would soon
outnumber even the churches. But the cynics were only jesters. It was
almost universally agreed that, in spite of wars and economic troubles
and social upheavals, all was now well, and the future would be better.

The truth, said Bvalltu, was almost certainly otherwise. There was, as I
had suspected, unmistakable evidence that the average of intelligence
and of moral integrity throughout the world had declined; and they would
probably continue to do so. Already the race was living on its past. All
the great seminal ideas of the modern world had been conceived
centuries ago. Since then, world-changing applications of these ideas
had indeed been made; but none of these sensational inventions had
depended on the extreme kind of penetrating the whole course of thought
in an earlier age. Recently there had been, Bvalltu admitted, a spate of
revolutionary scientific discoveries and theories, but not one of them,
he said, contained any really novel principle. They were all
re-combinations of familiar principles. Scientific method, invented some
centuries ago, was so fertile a technique that it might well continue to
yield rich fruit for centuries to come even in the hands of workers
incapable of any high degree of originality.

But it was not in the field of science so much as in moral and practical
activity that the deterioration of mental caliber was most evident. I
myself, with Bvalltu's aid, had learnt to appreciate to some extent the
literature of that amazing period, many centuries earlier, when every
country seemed to blossom with art, philosophy and religion; when people
after people had changed its whole social and political order so as to
secure a measure of freedom and prosperity to all men; when state after
state had courageously disarmed, risking destruction but reaping peace
and prosperity; when police forces were disbanded, prisons turned into
libraries or colleges; when weapons and even locks and keys came to be
known only as museum pieces; when the four great established priesthoods
of the world had exposed their own mysteries, given their wealth to the
poor, and led the triumphant campaign for community; or had taken to
agriculture, handicrafts, teaching, as befitted humble supporters of the
new priestless, faithless, Godless religion of world-wide community and
inarticulate worship. After some five hundred years locks and keys,
weapons and doctrines, began to return. The golden age left behind it
only a lovely and incredible tradition, and a set of principles which,
though now sadly misconceived, were still the best influences in a
distraught world.

Those scientists who attributed mental deterioration to the increase of
cosmic rays affirmed that if the race had discovered science many
centuries earlier, when it had still before it the period of greatest
vitality, all would have been well. It would soon have mastered the
social problems which industrial civilization entails. It would have
created not merely a "mediaeval" but a highly mechanized Utopia. It
would almost certainly have discovered how to cope with the excess of
cosmic rays and prevent deterioration. But science had come too late.
Bvalltu, on the other hand, suspected that deterioration was due to some
factor in human nature itself. He was inclined to believe that it was a
consequence of civilization, that in changing the whole environment of
the human species, seemingly for the better, science had unwittingly
brought about a state of affairs hostile to spiritual vigor. He did not
pretend to know whether the disaster was caused by the increase of
artificial food, or the increased nervous strain of modern conditions,
or interference with natural selection, or the softer upbringing of
children, or to some other cause. Perhaps it should be attributed to
none of these comparatively recent influences; for evidence did suggest
that deterioration had set in at the very beginning of the scientific
age, if not even earlier. It might be that some mysterious factor in the
conditions of the golden age itself had started the rot. It might even
be, he suggested, that genuine community generated its own poison, that
the young human being, brought up in a perfected society, in a veritable
"city of God" on earth, must inevitably revolt toward moral and
intellectual laziness, toward romantic individualism and sheer
devilment; and that once this disposition had taken root, science and a
mechanized civilization had augmented the spiritual decay.

Shortly before I left the Other Earth a geologist discovered a fossil
diagram of a very complicated radio set. It appeared to be a
lithographic plate which had been made some ten million years earlier.
The highly developed society which produced it had left no other trace.
This find was a shock to the intelligent world; but the comforting view
was spread abroad that some non-human and less hardy species had long
ago attained a brief flicker of civilization. It was agreed that man,
once he had reached such a height of culture, would never have fallen
from it.

In Bvalltu's view, man had climbed approximately to the same height time
after time, only to be undone by some hidden consequence of his own
achievement.

When Bvalltu propounded this theory, among the ruins of his native city,
I suggested that some time, if not this time, man would successfully
pass this critical point in his career. Bvalltu then spoke of another
matter which seemed to indicate that we were witnessing the final act of
this long-drawn-out and repetitive drama. It was known to scientists
that, owing to the weak gravitational hold of their world, the
atmosphere, already scant, was steadily deceasing. Sooner or later
humanity would have to face the problem of stopping this constant
leakage of precious oxygen. Hitherto life had successfully adapted
itself to the progressive rarefaction of atmosphere, but the human
physique had already reached the limit of adaptability in this respect.
If the loss were not soon checked, the race would inevitably decline.
The only hope was that some means to deal with the atmospheric problem
would be discovered before the onset of the next age of barbarism. There
had only been a slight possibility that this would be achieved. This
slender hope the war had destroyed by setting the clock of scientific
research back for a century just at the time when human nature itself
was deteriorating and might never again be able to tackle so difficult a
problem.

The thought of the disaster which almost certainly lay in wait for the
Other Men threw me into a horror of doubt about the universe in which
such a thing could happen. That a whole world of intelligent beings
could be destroyed was not an unfamiliar idea to me; but there is a
great difference between an abstract possibility and a concrete and
inescapable danger. On my native planet, whenever I had been dismayed by
the suffering and the futility of individuals, I had taken comfort in
the thought that at least the massed effect of all our blind striving
must be the slow but glorious awakening of the human spirit. This hope,
this certainty, had been the one sure consolation. But now I saw that
there was no guarantee of any such triumph. It seemed that the universe,
or the maker of the universe, must be indifferent to the fate of worlds.
That there should be endless struggle and suffering and waste must
of course be accepted; and gladly, for these were the very soil in which
the spirit grew. But that all struggle should be finally, absolutely
vain, that a whole world of sensitive spirits fail and die, must be
sheer evil. In my horror it seemed to me that Hate must be the Star
Maker.

Not so to Bvalltu. "Even if the powers destroy us," he said, "who are
we, to condemn them? As well might a fleeting word judge the speaker
that forms it. Perhaps they use us for their own high ends, use our
strength and our weakness, our joy and our pain, in some theme
inconceivable to us, and excellent." But I protested, "What theme could
justify such waste, such futility? And how can we help judging; and how
otherwise can we judge than by the light of our own hearts, by which we
judge ourselves? It would be base to praise the Star Maker, knowing that
he was too insensitive to care about the fate of his worlds." Bvalltu
was silent in his mind for a moment. Then he looked up, searching among
the smoke-clouds for a daytime star. And then he said to me in his mind,
"If he saved all the worlds, but tormented just one man, would you
forgive him? Or if he was a little harsh only to one stupid child? What
has our pain to do with it, or our failure? Star Maker! It is a good
word, though we can have no notion of its meaning. Oh, Star Maker, even
if you destroy me, I must praise you. Even if you torture my dearest.
Even if you torment and waste all your lovely worlds, the little
figments of your imagination, yet I must praise you. For if you do so,
it must be right. In me it would be wrong, but in you it must be right."

He looked down once more upon the ruined city, then continued, "And if
after all there is no Star Maker, if the great company of galaxies leapt
into being of their own accord, and even if this little nasty world of
ours is the only habitation of the spirit anywhere among the stars, and
this world doomed, even so, even so, I must praise. But if there is no
Star Maker, what can it be that I praise? I do not know. I will call it
only the sharp tang and savor of existence. But to call it this is to
say little."



CHAPTER IV

I TRAVEL AGAIN

I MUST have spent several years on the Other Earth, a period far longer
than I intended when I first encountered one of its peasants trudging
through the fields. Often I longed to be at home again. I used to wonder
with painful anxiety how those dear to me were faring, and what changes
I should discover if I were ever to return. It was surprising to me that
in spite of my novel and crowded experiences on the Other Earth thoughts
of home should continue to be so insistent. It seemed but a moment since
I was sitting on the hill looking at the lights of our suburb. Yet
several years had passed. The children would be altered almost beyond
recognition. Their mother? How would she have fared?

Bvalltu was partly responsible for my long spell on the Other Earth. He
would not hear of my leaving till we had each attained a real
understanding of the other's world. I constantly stimulated his
imagination to picture as clearly as possible the life of my own planet,
and he had discovered in it much the same medley of the splendid and the
ironical as I had discovered in his. In fact he was far from agreeing
with me that his world was on the whole the more grotesque.

The call to impart information was not the only consideration that bound
me to Bvalltu. I had come to feel a very strong friendship for him. In
the early days of our partnership there had sometimes been strains.
Though we were both civilized human beings, who tried always to behave
with courtesy and generosity, our extreme intimacy did sometimes fatigue
us. I used, for instance, to find his passion for the gustatory fine art
of his world very wearisome. He would sit by the hour passing his
sensitive fingers over the impregnated cords to seize the taste
sequences that had for him such great subtlety of form and symbolism. I
was at first intrigued, then aesthetically stirred; but in spite of his
patient help I was never at this early stage able to enter fully and
spontaneously into the aesthetic of taste. Sooner or later I was
fatigued or bored. Then again, I was impatient of his periodic need for
sleep. Since I was disembodied, I myself felt no such need. I could, of
course, disengage myself from Bvalltu and roam the world alone; but I
was often exasperated by the necessity of breaking off the day's
interesting experiences merely in order to afford my host's body time to
recuperate. Bvalltu, for his part, at least in the early days of our
partnership, was inclined to resent my power of watching his dreams. For
though, while awake, he could withdraw his thoughts from my observation,
asleep he was helpless. Naturally I very soon learned to refrain from
exercising this power; and he, on his side, as our intimacy developed
into mutual respect, no longer cherished this privacy so strictly. In
time each of us came to feel that to taste the flavor of life in
isolation from the other was to miss half its richness and subtlety.
Neither could entirely trust his own judgment or his own motives unless
the other were present to offer relentless though friendly criticism.

We hit upon a plan for satisfying at once our friendship, his interest
in my world, and my own longing for home. Why should we not somehow
contrive to visit my planet together? I had traveled thence; why should
we not both travel thither? After a spell on my planet, we could proceed
upon the larger venture, again together.

For this end we had to attack two very different tasks. The technique of
interstellar travel, which I had achieved only by accident and in a very
haphazard manner, must now be thoroughly mastered. Also we must somehow
locate my native planetary system in the astronomical maps of the Other
Men.

This geographical, or rather cosmographical, problem proved insoluble.
Do what I would, I could provide no data for the orientation. The
attempt, however, led us to an amazing, and for me a terrifying
discovery. I had traveled not only through space but through time
itself. In the first place, it appeared that, in the very advanced
astronomy of the Other Men, stars as mature as the Other Sun and as my
own Sun were rare. Yet in terrestrial astronomy this type of star was
known to be the commonest of all throughout the galaxy. How could this
be? Then I made another perplexing discovery. The galaxy as known to the
Other Astronomers proved to be strikingly different from my recollection
of the galaxy as known to our own astronomers. According to the Other
Men the great star-system was much less flattened than we observe it to
be. Our astronomers tell us that it is like a circular biscuit five
times as wide as it is thick. In their view it was more like a bun. I
myself had often been struck by the width and indefiniteness of the
Milky Way in the sky of the Other Earth. I had been surprised, too, that
the Other Astronomers believed the galaxy to contain much gaseous matter
not yet condensed into stars. To our astronomers it seemed to be almost
wholly stellar.

Had I then traveled unwittingly much further than I had supposed, and
actually entered some other and younger galaxy? Perhaps in my period of
darkness, when the rubies and amethysts and diamonds of the sky had all
vanished, I had actually sped across intergalactic space. This seemed at
first the only explanation, but certain facts forced us to discard it in
favor of one even stranger.

Comparison of the astronomy of the Other Men with my fragmentary
recollection of our own astronomy convinced me that the whole cosmos of
galaxies known to them differed from the whole cosmos of galaxies known
to us. The average form of the galaxies was much more rotund and much
more gaseous, in fact much more primitive, for them than for us.

Moreover, in the sky of the Other Earth several galaxies were so near as
to be prominent smudges of light even for the naked eye. And astronomers
had shown that many of these so-called "universes" were much closer to
the home "universe" than the nearest known in our astronomy.

The truth that now flashed on Bvalltu and me was indeed bewildering.
Everything pointed to the fact that I had somehow traveled up the river
of time and landed myself at a date in the remote past, when the great
majority of the stars were still young. The startling nearness of so
many galaxies in the astronomy of the Other Men could be explained on
the theory of the "expanding universe." Well I knew that this dramatic
theory was but tentative and very far from satisfactory; but at least
here was one more striking bit of evidence to suggest that it must be in
some sense true. In early epochs the galaxies would of course be
congested together. There could be no doubt that I had been transported
to a world which had reached the human stage very long before my native
planet had been plucked from the sun's womb.

The full realization of my temporal remoteness from my home reminded me
of a fact, or at least a probability, which, oddly enough, I had long
ago forgotten. Presumably I was dead. I now desperately craved to be
home again. Home was all the while so vivid, so near. Even though its
distance was to be counted in parsecs and in aeons, it was always at
hand. Surely, if I could only wake, I should find myself there on our
hill-top again. But there was no waking. Through Bvalltu's eyes I was
studying star-maps and pages of outlandish script. When he looked up, I
saw standing opposite us a caricature of a human being, with a frog-like
face that was scarcely a face at all, and with the thorax of a
pouter-pigeon, naked save for a greenish down. Red silk knickers crowned
the spindle shanks that were enclosed in green silk stockings. This
creature, which, to the terrestrial eye, was simply a monster, passed on
the Other Earth as a young and beautiful woman. And I myself, observing
her through Bvalltu's benevolent eyes, recognized her as indeed
beautiful. To a mind habituated to the Other Earth her features and her
every gesture spoke of intelligence and wit. Clearly, if I could admire
such a woman, I myself must have changed.

It would be tedious to tell of the experiments by which we acquired and
perfected the art of controlled flight through interstellar space.
Suffice it that, after many adventures, we learned to soar up from the
planet whenever we wished, and to direct our course, by mere acts of
volition, hither and thither among the stars. We seemed to have much
greater facility and accuracy when we worked together than when either
ventured into space by himself. Our community of mind seemed to
strengthen us even for spatial locomotion.

It was a very strange experience to find oneself in the depth of space,
surrounded only by darkness and the stars, yet to be all the while in
close personal contact with an unseen companion. As the dazzling lamps
of heaven flashed past us, we would think to one another about our
experiences, or debate our plans, or share our memories of our native
worlds. Sometimes we used my language, sometimes his. Sometimes we
needed no words at all, but merely shared the flow of imagery in our two
minds.

The sport of disembodied flight among the stars must surely be the most
exhilarating of all athletic exercises. It was not without danger; but
its danger, as we soon discovered, was psychological, not physical. In
our bodiless state, collision with celestial objects mattered little.
Sometimes, in the early stages of our adventure, we plunged by accident
headlong into a star. Its interior would, of course, be inconceivably
hot, but we experienced merely brilliance.

The psychological dangers of the sport were grave. We soon discovered
that disheartenment, mental fatigue, fear, all tended to reduce our
powers of movement. More than once we found ourselves immobile in space,
like a derelict ship on the ocean; and such was the fear roused by this
plight that there was no possibility of moving till, having experienced
the whole gamut of despair, we passed through indifference and on into
philosophic calm.

A still graver danger, but one which trapped us only once, was mental
conflict. A serious discord of purpose over our future plans reduced us
not only to immobility but to terrifying mental disorder. Our
perceptions became confused. Hallucinations tricked us. The power of
coherent thought vanished. After a spell of delirium, filled with an
overwhelming sense of impending annihilation, we found ourselves back on
the Other Earth; Bvalltu in his own body, lying in bed as he had left
it, I once more a disembodied view-point floating somewhere over the
planet's surface. Both were in a state of insane terror, from which we
took long to recover. Months passed before we renewed our partnership
and our adventure.

Long afterwards we learned the explanation of this painful incident.
Seemingly we had attained such a deep mental accord that, when conflict
arose, it was more like dissociation within a single mind than discord
between two separate individuals. Hence its serious consequences.

As our skill in disembodied flight increased, we found intense pleasure
in sweeping hither and thither among the stars. We tasted the delights
at once of skating and of flight. Time after time, for sheer joy, we
traced huge figures-of-eight in and out around the two partners of a
"double star." Sometimes we stayed motionless for long periods to watch
at close quarters the waxing and waning of a variable. Often we plunged
into a congested cluster, and slid amongst its suns like a car gliding
among the lights of a city. Often we skimmed over billowy and palely
luminous surfaces of gas, or among feathery shreds and prominences; or
plunged into mist, to find ourselves in a world of featureless dawn
light. Sometimes, without warning, dark continents of dust engulfed us,
blotting out the universe. Once, as we were traversing a populous region
of the heaven, a star suddenly blazed into exaggerated splendor,
becoming a "nova." As it was apparently surrounded by a cloud of
non-luminous gas, we actually saw the expanding sphere of light which
was radiated by the star's explosion. Traveling outward at light's
speed, it was visible by reflection from the surrounding gas, so that it
appeared like a swelling balloon of light, fading as it spread.

These were but a few of the stellar spectacles that delighted us while
we easefully skated, as on swallow wings, hither and thither among the
neighbors of the Other Sun. This was during our period of apprenticeship
to the craft of interstellar flight. When we had become proficient we
passed further afield, and learned to travel so fast that, as on my own
earlier and involuntary flight, the forward and the hinder stars took
color, and presently all was dark. Not only so, but we reached to that
more spiritual vision, also experienced on my earlier voyage, in which
these vagaries of physical light are overcome.


On one occasion our flight took us outwards toward the limits of the
galaxy, and into the emptiness beyond. For some time the near stars had
become fewer and fewer. The hinder hemisphere of sky was now crowded
with faint lights, while in front of us lay starless blackness,
unrelieved save by a few isolated patches of scintillation, a few
detached fragments of the galaxy, or planetary "sub-galaxies." Apart
from these the dark was featureless, save for half a dozen of the vague
flecks which we knew to be the nearest of the alien galaxies.

Awed by this spectacle, we stayed long motionless in the void. It was
indeed a stirring experience to see spread out before us a whole
"universe," containing a billion stars and perhaps thousands of
inhabited worlds; and to know that each tiny fleck in the black sky was
itself another such "universe," and that millions more of them were
invisible only because of their extreme remoteness.

What was the significance of this physical immensity and complexity? By
itself, plainly, it constituted nothing but sheer futility and
desolation. But with awe and hope we told ourselves that it promised an
even greater complexity and subtlety and diversity of the psychical.
This alone could justify it. But this formidable promise, though
inspiring, was also terrifying.

Like a nestling that peers over the nest's rim for the first time, and
then shrinks back from the great world into its tiny home, we had
emerged beyond the confines of that little nest of stars which for so
long, but falsely, men called "the universe." And now we sank back to
bury ourselves once more in the genial precincts of our native galaxy.

As our experiences had raised many theoretical problems which we could
not solve without further study of astronomy, we now decided to return
to the Other Earth; but after long and fruitless search we realized that
we had completely lost our bearings. The stars were all much alike, save
that few in this early epoch were as old and temperate as the Other Sun.
Searching at random, but at high speed, we found neither Bvalltu's
planet nor mine, nor any other solar system. Frustrated, we came to rest
once more in the void to consider our plight. On every side the ebony of
the sky, patterned with diamonds, confronted us with an enigma. Which
spark of all this star-dust was the Other Sun? As was usual in the sky
of this early epoch, streaks of nebular matter were visible in all
directions; but their shapes were unfamiliar, and useless for
orientation.

The fact that we were lost among the stars did not distress us. We were
exhilarated by our adventure, and each was a cause of good spirits in
the other. Our recent experiences had quickened our mental life, still
further organizing our two minds together. Each was still at most times
conscious of the other and of himself as separate beings; but the
pooling or integration of our memories and of our temperaments had now
gone so far that our distinctness was often forgotten. Two disembodied
minds, occupying the same visual position, possessing the same memories
and desires, and often performing the same mental acts at the same time,
can scarcely be conceived as distinct beings. Yet, strangely enough,
this growing identity was complicated by an increasingly intense mutual
realization and comradeship.

Our penetration of one another's minds brought to each not merely
addition but mutiplication of mental riches; for each knew inwardly not
only himself and the other but also the contrapuntal harmony of each in
relation to the other. Indeed, in some sense which I cannot precisely
describe, our union of minds brought into being a third mind, as yet
intermittent, but more subtly conscious than either of us in the normal
state. Each of us, or rather both of us together, "woke up" now and then
to be this superior spirit. All the experiences of each took on a new
significance in the light of the other; and our two minds together
became a new, more penetrating, and more self-conscious mind. In this
state of heightened lucidity we, or rather the new I, began deliberately
to explore the psychological possibilities of other types of beings and
intelligent worlds. With new penetration I distinguished in myself and
in Bvalltu those attributes which were essential to the spirit and those
mere accidents imposed on each by his peculiar world. This imaginative
venture was soon to prove itself a method, and a very potent method, of
cosmological research.

We now began to realize more clearly a fact that we had long suspected.
In my previous interstellar voyage, which brought me to the Other Earth,
I had unwittingly employed two distinct methods of travel, the method of
disembodied flight through space and a method which I shall call
"physical attraction." This consisted of telepathic projection of the
mind directly into some alien world, remote perhaps in time and space,
but mentally "in tune" with the explorer's own mind at the time of the
venture. Evidently it was this method that had really played the chief
part in directing me to the Other Earth. The remarkable similarities of
our two races had set up a strong "physical attraction" which had been
far more potent than all my random interstellar wanderings. It was this
method that Bvalltu and I were now to practice and perfect.

Presently we noticed that we were no longer at rest but slowly drifting.
We had also a queer sense that, though we were seemingly isolated in a
vast desert of stars and nebulae, we were in fact in some kind of mental
proximity with unseen intelligences. Concentrating on this sense of
presence, we found that our drift accelerated; and that, if we tried by
a violent act of volition to change its course, we inevitably swung back
into the original direction as soon as our effort ceased. Soon our drift
became a headlong flight. Once more the forward stars turned violet, the
hinder red. Once more all vanished.

In absolute darkness and silence we debated our situation. Clearly we
were now passing through space more quickly than light itself. Perhaps
we were also, in some incomprehensible manner, traversing time.
Meanwhile that sense of the proximity of other beings became more and
more insistent, though no less confused. Then once again the stars
appeared. Though they streamed past us like flying sparks, they were
colorless and normal. One brilliant light lay right ahead of us. It
waxed, became a dazzling splendor, then visibly a disc. With an effort
of will we decreased our speed, then cautiously we swung round this sun,
searching. To our delight, it proved to be attended by several of the
grains that may harbor life. Guided by our unmistakable sense of mental
presence, we selected one of these planets, and slowly descended toward
it.



CHAPTER V

WORLDS INNUMERABLE

1. THE DIVERSITY OF WORLDS

THE planet on which we now descended after our long flight among the
stars was the first of many to be visited. In some we stayed, according
to the local calendar, only a few weeks, in others several years, housed
together in the mind of some native. Often when the time came for our
departure our host would accompany us for subsequent adventures. As we
passed from world to world, as experience was piled upon experience like
geological strata, it seemed that this strange tour of worlds was
lasting for many lifetimes. Yet thoughts of our own home-planets were
constantly with us. Indeed, in my case it was not till I found myself
thus exiled that I came to realize fully the little jewel of personal
union that I had left behind. I had to comprehend each world as best I
could by reference to the remote world where my own life had happened,
and above all by the touchstone of that common life that she and I had
made together.

Before trying to describe, or rather suggest, the immense diversity of
worlds which I entered, I must say a few words about the movement of the
adventure itself. After the experiences which I have just recorded it
was clear that the method of disembodied flight was of little use. It
did indeed afford us extremely vivid perception of the visible features
of our galaxy; and we often used it to orientate ourselves when we had
made some fresh discovery by the method of psychological attraction. But
since it gave us freedom only of space and not of time, and since,
moreover, planetary systems were so very rare, the method of sheer
random physical flight alone was almost infinitely unlikely to produce
results. Physical attraction, however, once we had mastered it, proved
very effective. This method depended on the imaginative reach of our own
minds. At first, when our imaginative power was strictly limited by
experience of our own worlds, we could make contact only with worlds
closely akin to our own. Moreover, in this novitiate stage of our work
we invariably came upon these worlds when they were passing through the
same spiritual crisis as that which underlies the plight of Homo sapiens
today. It appeared that, for to enter any world at all, there had to be
a deep-lying likeness or identity in ourselves and our hosts.

As we passed on from world to world we greatly increased our
understanding of the principles underlying our venture, and our powers
of applying them. Further, in each world that we visited we sought out a
new collaborator, to give us insight into his world and to extend our
imaginative reach for further exploration of the galaxy. This "snowball"
method by which our company was increased was of great importance, since
it magnified our powers. In the final stages of the exploration we made
discoveries which might well be regarded as infinitely beyond the range
of any single and unaided human mind.

At the outset Bvalltu and I assumed that we were embarking on a purely
private adventure; and later, as we gathered helpers, we still believed
that we ourselves were the sole initiators of cosmical exploration. But
after a while we came in psychical contact with another group of
cosmical explorers, natives of worlds as yet unknown to us. With these
adventurers, after difficult and often distressing experiments, we
joined forces, entering first into intimate community, and later into
that strange mental union which Bvalltu and I had already experienced
together in some degree on our first voyage among the stars.

When we had encountered many more such groups, we realized that, though
each little expedition had made a lonely start, all were destined sooner
or later to come together. For, no matter now alien from one another at
the outset, each group gradually acquired such far-reaching imaginative
power that sooner or later it was sure to make contact with others.

In time it became clear that we, individual inhabitants of a host of
other worlds, were playing a small part in one of the great movements by
which the cosmos was seeking to know itself, and even see beyond itself.

In saying this I do not for a moment claim that, because I have shared
in this vast process of cosmical self-discovery, the story which I have
to tell is true in a fully literal sense. Plainly it does not deserve to
be taken as part of the absolute objective truth about the cosmos. I,
the human individual, can only in a most superficial and falsifying way
participate in the superhuman experience of that communal "I" which was
supported by the innumerable explorers. This book must needs be a
ludicrously false caricature of our actual adventure. But further,
though we were and are a multitude drawn from a multitude of spheres, we
represent only a tiny fraction of the diversity of the whole cosmos.
Thus even the supreme moment of our experience, when it seemed to us
that we had penetrated to the very heart of reality, must in fact have
given us no more than a few shreds of truth, and these not literal but
symbolic.

My account of that part of my adventure which brought me into contact
with worlds of more or less human type may be fairly accurate; but that
which deals with more alien spheres must be far from the truth. The
Other Earth I have probably described with little more falsehood than
our historians commit in telling of the past ages of Homo sapiens. But
of the less human worlds, and the many fantastic kinds of beings which
we encountered up and down the galaxy and throughout the whole cosmos,
and even beyond it, I shall perforce make statements which, literally
regarded, must be almost wholly false. I can only hope that they have
the kind of truth that we sometimes find in myths.

Since we were now free of space, we ranged with equal ease over the
nearer and the remoter tracts of this galaxy. That we did not till much
later make contact with minds in other galaxies was not due to any
limitations imposed by space, but seemingly to our own inveterate
parochialism, to a strange limitation of our own interest, which for
long rendered us inhospitable to the influence of worlds lying beyond
the confines of the Milky Way. I shall say more of this curious
restriction when I come to describe how we did at last outgrow it.

Along with freedom of space we had freedom of time. Some of the worlds
that we explored in this early phase of our adventure ceased to exist
long before my native planet was formed; others were its contemporaries;
others were not born till the old age of our galaxy, when the Earth had
been destroyed, and a large number of the stars had already been
extinguished.

As we searched up and down time and space, discovering more and more of
the rare grains called planets, as we watched race after race struggle
to a certain degree of lucid consciousness, only to succumb to some
external accident or, more often, to some flaw in its own nature, we
were increasingly oppressed by a sense of the futility, the planlessness
of the cosmos. A few worlds did indeed wake to such lucidity that they
passed beyond our ken. But several of the most brilliant of these
occurred in the earliest epoch of the galactic story; and nothing that
we could as yet discover in the later phases of the cosmos suggested
that any galaxies, still less the cosmos as a whole, had at last come
(or will at last come) more under the sway of the awakened spirit than
they were during the epoch of those early brilliant worlds. Not till a
much later stage of our inquiry were we fitted to discover the glorious
but ironical and heart-rending climax for which this vast proliferation
of worlds was but a prologue.

In the first phase of our adventure, when, as I have said, our powers of
telepathic exploration were incomplete, every world that we entered
turned out to be in the throes of the same spiritual crisis as that
which we knew so well on our native planets. This crisis I came to
regard as having two aspects. It was at once a moment in the spirit's
struggle to become capable of true community on a world-wide scale; and
it was a stage in the age-long task of achieving the right, the finally
appropriate, the spiritual attitude toward the universe.

In every one of these "chrysalis" worlds thousands of millions of
persons were flashing into existence, one after the other, to drift
gropingly about for a few instants of cosmical time before they were
extinguished. Most were capable, at least in some humble degree, of the
intimate kind of community which is personal affection; but for nearly
all of them a stranger was ever a thing to fear and hate. And even their
intimate loving was inconstant and lacking in insight. Nearly always
they were intent merely on seeking for themselves respite from fatigue
or boredom, fear or hunger. Like my own race, they never fully awoke
from the primeval sleep of the subman. Only a few here and there, now
and then, were solaced, goaded, or tortured by moments of true
wakefulness. Still fewer attained a clear and constant vision, even of
some partial aspect of truth; and their half-truths they nearly always
took to be absolute. Propagating their little partial truths, they
bewildered and misdirected their fellow mortals as much as they helped
them.

Each individual spirit, in nearly all these worlds, attained at some
point in life some lowly climax of awareness and of spiritual integrity,
only to sink slowly or catastrophically back into nothingness. Or so it
seemed. As in my own world, so in all these others, lives were spent in
pursuit of shadowy ends that remained ever just round the corner. There
were vast tracts of boredom and frustration, with here and there some
rare bright joy. These were ecstasies of personal triumph, of mutual
intercourse and love, of intellectual insight, of aesthetic creation.
There were also religious ecstasies; but these, like all else in these
worlds, were obscured by false interpretations. There were crazy
ecstasies of hate and cruelty, felt against individuals and against
groups. Sometimes during this early phase of our adventure we were so
distressed by the incredible bulk of suffering and of cruelty up and
down the worlds that our courage failed, our telepathic powers were
disordered, and we slipped toward madness.

Yet most of these worlds were really no worse than our own. Like us,
they had reached that stage when the spirit, half awakened from
brutishness and very far from maturity, can suffer most desperately and
behave most cruelly. And like us, these tragic but vital worlds, visited
in our early adventures, were agonized by the inability of their minds
to keep pace with changing circumstance. They were always behindhand,
always applying old concepts and old ideals inappropriately to novel
situations. Like us, they were constantly tortured by their hunger for a
degree of community which their condition demanded but their poor,
cowardly, selfish spirits could by no means attain. Only in couples and
in little circles of companions could they support true community, the
communion of mutual insight and respect and love. But in their tribes
and nations they conceived all too easily the sham community of the
pack, baying in unison of fear and hate.

Particularly in one respect these races were recognizably our kin. Each
had risen by a strange mixture of violence and gentleness. The apostles
of violence and the apostles of gentleness swayed them this way and
that. At the time of our visit many of these worlds were in the throes
of a crisis of this conflict. In the recent past, loud lip-service had
been paid to gentleness and tolerance and freedom; but the policy had
failed, because there was no sincere purpose in it, no conviction of the
spirit, no true experience of respect for individual personality. All
kinds of self-seeking and vindictiveness had nourished, secretly at
first, then openly as shameless individualism. Then at last, in rage,
the peoples turned away from individualism and plunged into the cult of
the herd. At the same time, in disgust with the failure of gentleness,
they began openly to praise violence, and the ruthlessness of the
god-sent hero and of the armed tribe. Those who thought they believed in
gentleness built up armaments for their tribes against those foreign
tribes whom they accused of believing in violence. The highly developed
technique of violence threatened to destroy civilization; year by year
gentleness lost ground. Few could understand that their world must be
saved, not by violence in the short run, but by gentleness in the long
run. And still fewer could see that, to be effective, gentleness must be
a religion; and that lasting peace can never come till the many have
wakened to the lucidity of consciousness which, in all these worlds,
only the few could as yet attain.

If I were to describe in detail every world that we explored, this book
would develop into a world of libraries. I can give only a few pages to
the many types of worlds encountered in this early stage of our
adventure, up and down the whole breadth and length and the whole
duration of our galaxy. Some of these types had apparently very few
instances; other occurred in scores or hundreds.

The most numerous of all classes of intelligent worlds is that which
includes the planet familiar to readers of this book. Homo sapiens has
recently flattered and frightened himself by conceiving that, though
perhaps he is not the sole intelligence in the cosmos, he is at least
unique, and that worlds suited to intelligent life of any kind must be
extremely rare. This view proves ludicrously false. In comparison with
the unimaginable number of stars, intelligent worlds are indeed very
rare; but we discovered some thousands of worlds much like the Earth and
possessed by beings of essentially human kind, though superficially they
were often unlike the type that we call human. The Other Men were
amongst the most obviously human. But in a later stage of our adventure,
when our research was no longer restricted to worlds that had reached
the familiar spiritual crisis, we stumbled on a few planets inhabited by
races almost identical with Homo sapiens, or rather with the creature
that Homo sapiens was in the earliest phase of his existence. These most
human worlds we had not encountered earlier because, by one accident or
another, they were destroyed before reaching the stage of our own
mentality.

Long after we had succeeded in extending our research from our peers
among the worlds to our inferiors in mental rank we remained unable to
make any sort of contact with beings who had passed wholly beyond the
attainment of Homo sapiens. Consequently, though we traced the history
of many worlds through many epochs, and saw many reach a catastrophic
end, or sink into stagnation and inevitable decline, there were a few
with which, do what we would, we lost touch just at that moment when
they seemed ripe for a leap forward into some more developed mentality.
Not till a much later stage of our adventure, when our corporate being
had itself been enriched by the influx of many superior spirits, were we
able to pick up once more the threads of these most exalted
world-biographies.

2. STRANGE MANKINDS

Though all the worlds which we entered in the first phase of our
adventure were in the throes of the crisis known so well in our own
world, some were occupied by races biologically similar to man, others
by very different types. The more obviously human races inhabited
planets of much the same size and nature as the Earth and the Other
Earth. All, whatever the vagaries of their biological history, had
finally been molded by circumstance to the erect form which is evidently
most suited to such worlds. Nearly always the two nether limbs were used
for locomotion, the two upper limbs for manipulation. Generally there
was some sort of head, containing the brain and the organs of remote
perception, and perhaps the orifices for eating and breathing. In size
these quasi-human types were seldom larger than our largest gorillas,
seldom much smaller than monkeys; but we could not estimate their size
with any accuracy, as we had no familiar standards of measurements.

Within this approximately human class there was great variety. We came
upon feathered, penguin-like men, descended from true fliers, and on
some small planets we found bird-men who retained the power of flight,
yet were able to carry an adequate human brain. Even on some large
planets, with exceptionally buoyant atmosphere, men flew with their own
wings. Then there were men that had developed from a slug-like ancestor
along a line which was not vertebrate, still less mammalian. Men of this
type attained the necessary rigidity and flexibility of limb by means of
a delicate internal "basket-work" of wiry bones.

On one very small but earthlike planet we discovered a quasi-human race
which was probably unique. Here, though life had evolved much as on
earth, all the higher animals differed remarkably from the familiar type
in one obvious respect. They were without that far-reaching duplication
of organs which characterizes all our vertebrates. Thus a man in this
world was rather like half a terrestrial man. He hopped on one sturdy,
splay-footed leg, balancing himself with a kangaroo tail. A single arm
protruded from his chest, but branched into three forearms and
prehensile fingers. Above his mouth was a single nostril, above that an
ear, and on the top of his head a flexible three-pronged proboscis
bearing three eyes.

A very different and fairly common quasi-human kind was sometimes
produced by planets rather larger than the Earth. Owing to the greater
strength of gravitation, there would first appear, in place of the
familiar quadruped, a six-legged type. This would proliferate into
little sextuped burrowers, swift and elegant sextuped grazers, a
sextuped mammoth, complete with tusks, and many kinds of sextuped
carnivora. Man in these worlds sprang usually from some small
opposum-like creature which had come to use the first of its three pairs
of limbs for nest-building or for climbing. In time, the forepart of its
body thus became erect, and it gradually assumed a form not unlike that
of a quadruped with a human torso in place of a neck. In fact it became
a centaur, with four legs and two capable arms. It was very strange to
find oneself in a world in which all the amenities and conveniences of
civilization were fashioned to suit men of this form.

In one of these worlds, rather smaller than the rest; man was not a
centaur, though centaurs were among his remote ancestors. In sub-human
stages of evolution the pressure of the environment had telescoped the
horizontal part of the centaur's body, so that the forelegs and the
hind-legs were drawn closer and closer together, till at last they
became a single sturdy pair. Thus man and his nearer ancestors were
bipeds with very large rumps, reminiscent of the Victorian bustle, and
legs whose internal structure still showed their "centaur" origin.

One very common kind of quasi-human world I must describe in more
detail, as it plays an important part in the history of our galaxy. In
these worlds man, though varying greatly in form and fortune in
particular worlds, had in every case developed from a sort of
five-pronged marine animal, rather like a star-fish. This creature would
in time specialize one prong for perceiving, four for locomotion. Later
it would develop lungs, a complex digestive apparatus, and a
well-integrated nervous system. Later still the perceiving limb would
produce a brain, the others becoming adapted for running and climbing.
The soft spines which covered the body of the ancestral star-fish often
developed into a kind of spiky fur. In due season there would arise an
erect, intelligent biped, equipped with eyes, nostrils, ears,
taste-organs, and sometimes organs of electric perception. Save for the
grotesqueness of their faces, and the fact that the mouth was generally
upon the belly, these creatures were remarkably human. Their bodies,
however, were usually covered with the soft spines or fat hairs
characteristic of these worlds. Clothes were unknown, save as protection
against cold in the arctic regions. Their faces, of course, were apt to
be far from human. The tall head often bore a coronet of five eyes.
Large single nostrils, used for breathing and smelling and also
speaking, formed another circlet below the eyes.

The appearance of these "Human Echinoderms" belied their nature, for
though their faces were inhuman, the basic pattern of their minds was
not unlike our own. Their senses were much like ours, save that in some
worlds they developed a far more varied color-sensitivity. Those races
that had the electric sense gave us some difficulty; for, in order to
understand their thought, we had to learn a whole new gamut of sense
qualities and a vast system of unfamiliar symbolism. The electric organs
detected very slight differences of electric charge in relation to the
subject's own body. Originally this sense had been used for revealing
enemies equipped with electric organs of offense. But in man its
significance was chiefly social. It gave information about the emotional
state of one's neighbors. Beyond this its function was meteorological.

One example of this kind of world, one which clearly illustrates the
type, and at the same time presents interesting peculiarities must be
described in more detail.

The key to the understanding of this race is, I believe, its strange
method of reproduction, which was essentially communal. Every individual
was capable of budding a new individual; but only at certain seasons,
and only after stimulation by a kind of pollen emanating from the whole
tribe and carried on the air. The grains of this ultra-microscopically
fine pollen dust were not germ cells but "genes," the elementary factors
of inheritance. The precincts of the tribe were at all times faintly
perfumed by the communal pollen; but on occasions of violent group
emotion the pollen cloud became so intensified as to be actually visible
as a haze. Only on these rare occasions was conception probable.
Breathed out by every individual, the pollen was breathed in by those
who were ripe for fertilization. By all it was experienced as a rich and
subtle perfume, to which each individual contributed his peculiar odor.
By means of a curious psychical and physiological mechanism the
individual in heat was moved to crave stimulation by the full perfume of
the tribe, or of the great majority of its members; and indeed, if the
pollen clouds were insufficiently complex, conception would not occur.
Cross-fertilization between tribes happened in inter-tribal warfare and
in the ceaseless coming and going between tribes in the modern world.

In this race, then, every individual might bear children. Every child,
though it had an individual as its mother, was fathered by the tribe as
a whole. Expectant parents were sacred, and were tended communally. When
the baby "Echinoderm" finally detached itself from the parental body, it
also was tended communally along with the rest of the tribe's juvenile
population. In civilized societies it was handed over to professional
nurses and teachers.

I must not pause to tell of the important psychological effects of this
kind of reproduction. The delights and disgusts which we feel in contact
with the flesh of our kind were unknown. On the other hand, individuals
were profoundly moved by the ever-changing tribal perfume. It is
impossible to describe the strange variant of romantic love which, each
individual periodically felt for the tribe. The thwarting, the
repression, the perversion of this passion was the source at once of the
loftiest and most sordid achievements of the race. Communal parenthood
gave to the tribe a unity and strength quite unknown in more
individualistic races. The primitive tribes were groups of a few hundred
or a few thousand individuals, but in modern times their size greatly
increased. Always, however, the sentiment of tribal loyalty, if it was
to remain healthy, had to be based on the personal acquaintance of its
members. Even in the larger tribes, everyone was at least "the friend of
a friend's friend" to every other member. Telephone, radio, and
television enabled tribes as large as our smaller cities to maintain a
sufficient degree of personal intercourse among their members.

But always there was some point beyond which further growth of the tribe
was unwholesome. Even in the smallest and most intelligent tribes there
was a constant strain between the individual's natural passion for the
tribe and his respect for individuality in himself and his fellows. But
whereas in the small tribes and healthy larger tribes the tribal spirit
was kept sweet and sane by the mutual-respect and self-respect of the
individuals, in the largest and imperfectly sane tribes the hypnotic
influence of the tribe was all too apt to drown personality. The members
might even lose all awareness of themselves and their fellows as
persons, and become mere mindless organs of the tribe. Thus the
community would degenerate into an instinctive animal herd.

Throughout history the finer minds of the race had realized that the
supreme temptation was the surrender of individuality to the tribe.
Prophets had over and over again exhorted men to be true to themselves,
but their preaching had been almost wholly vain. The greatest religions
of this strange world were not religions of love but religions of self.
Whereas in our world men long for the Utopia in which all men shall love
one another, the "Echinoderms" were apt to exalt the religious hunger
for strength to "be oneself" without capitulation to the tribe. Just as
we compensate for our inveterate selfishness by religious veneration of
the community, so this race compensated for inveterate "gregism" by
religious veneration of the individual.

In its purest and most developed form, of course, the religion of self
is almost identical with the religion of love at its best. To love is to
will the self-fulfilment of the beloved, and to find, in the very
activity of loving, an incidental but vitalizing increase of oneself. On
the other hand, to be true to oneself, to the full potentiality of the
self, involves the activity of love. It demands the discipline of the
private self in service of a greater self which embraces the community
and the fulfilment of the spirit of the race.

But the religion of self was no more effective with the "Echinoderms"
than the religion of love with us. The precept, "Love thy neighbor as
thyself," breeds in us most often the disposition to see one's neighbor
merely as a poor imitation of oneself, and to hate him if he proves
different. With them the precept, "Be true to thyself," bred the
disposition merely to be true to the tribal fashion of mentality. Modern
industrial civilization caused many tribes to swell beyond the wholesome
limit. It also introduced artificial "super-tribes" or "tribes of
tribes," corresponding to our nations and social classes. Since the
economic unit was the internally communistic tribe, not the individual,
the employing class was a small group of small and prosperous tribes,
and the working class was a large group of large and impoverished
tribes. The ideologies of the super-tribes exercised absolute power over
all individual minds under their sway.

In civilized regions the super-tribes and the overgrown natural tribes
created an astounding mental tyranny. In relation to his natural tribe,
at least if it was small and genuinely civilized, the individual might
still behave with intelligence and imagination. Along with his actual
tribal kinsmen he might support a degree of true community unknown on
Earth. He might in fact be a critical, self-respecting and
other-respecting person. But in all matters connected with the
super-tribes, whether national or economic, he behaved in a very
different manner. All ideas coming to him with the sanction of nation or
class would be accepted uncritically and with fervor by himself and all
his fellows. As soon as he encountered one of the symbols or slogans of
his super-tribe he ceased to be a human personality and became a sort of
de-cerebrate animal, capable only of stereotyped reactions. In extreme
cases his mind was absolutely closed to influences opposed to the
suggestion of the super-tribe. Criticism was either met with blind rage
or actually not heard at all. Persons who in the intimate community of
their small native tribe were capable of great mutual insight and
sympathy might suddenly, in response to tribal symbols, be transformed
into vessels of crazy intolerance and hate directed against national or
class enemies. In this mood they would go to any extreme of
self-sacrifice for the supposed glory of the super-tribe. Also they
would show great ingenuity in contriving means to exercise their lustful
vindictiveness upon enemies who in favorable circumstances could be
quite as kindly and intelligent as themselves.

At the time of our visit to this world it seemed that mob passions would
destroy civilization completely and irrevocably. The affairs of the
world were increasingly conducted under the sway of the spreading mania
of super-tribalism; conducted, in fact, not intelligently but according
to the relative emotional compulsions of almost meaningless slogans. I
must not stay to describe how, after a period of chaos, a new way of
life at last began to spread over this distressed world. It could not do
so till the super-tribes had been disintegrated by the economic forces
of mechanized industry, and by their own frenzied conflict. Then at last
the individual mind became once more free. The whole prospect of the
race now changed.

It was in this world that we first experienced that tantalizing loss of
contact with the natives just at that point where, having established
something like a social Utopia throughout their planet, they were beset
by the first painful stirrings of the spirit before advancement to some
mental plane beyond our reach, or at least beyond such comprehension as
we then had.

Of the other "Echinoderm" worlds in our galaxy, one, more promising than
the average, rose early to brilliance, but was destroyed by astronomical
collision. Its whole solar system encountered a tract of dense nebula.
The surface of every planet was fused. In several other worlds of this
type we saw the struggle for the more awakened mentality definitely
fail. Vindictive and superstitious herd-cults exterminated the best
minds of the race, and drugged the rest with customs and principles so
damaging that the vital sources of sensitivity and adaptability on which
all mental progress depends were destroyed forever.

Many thousands of other quasi-human worlds, besides those of the
"Echinoderm" type, came to an untimely end. One, which succumbed to a
curious disaster, perhaps deserves brief notice. Here we found a race of
very human kind. When its civilization had reached a stage and character
much like our own, a stage in which the ideals of the masses are without
the guidance of any well-established tradition, and in which natural
science is enslaved to individualistic industry, biologists discovered
the technique of artificial insemination. Now at this time there
happened to be a wide-spread cult of irrationalism, of instinct, of
ruthlessness, and of the "divine" primitive "brute-man." This figure was
particularly admired when he combined brutishness with the power of the
mob-controller. Several countries were subjected to tyrants of this
type, and in the so-called democratic states the same type was much
favored by popular taste.

In both kinds of country, women craved "brute-men" as lovers and as
fathers for their children. Since in the "democratic" countries women
had attained great economic independence, their demand for fertilization
by "brute-men" caused the whole matter to be commercialized. Males of
the desirable type were taken up by syndicates, and graded in five ranks
of desirability. At a moderate charge, fixed in relation to the grade of
the father, any woman could obtain "brute-man" fertilization. So cheap
was the fifth grade that only the most abject paupers were debarred from
its services. The charge for actual copulation with even the lowest
grade of selected male was, of course, much higher, since perforce the
supply was limited.

In the non-democratic countries events took a different turn. In each of
these regions a tyrant of the fashionable type gathered upon his own
person the adoration of the whole population. He was the god-sent hero.
He was himself divine. Every woman longed passionately to have him, if
not as a lover, at least as father of her children. In some lands
artificial insemination from the Master was permitted only as a supreme
distinction for women of perfect type. Ordinary women of every class,
however, were entitled to insemination from the authorized aristocratic
stud of "brute-men." In other countries the Master himself condescended
to be the father of the whole future population.

The result of this extraordinary custom, of artificial fatherhood by
"brute-men," which was carried on without remission in all countries for
a generation, and in a less thorough manner for a very much longer
period, was to alter the composition of the whole quasi-human race. In
order to maintain continued adaptability to an ever-changing
environment, a race must at all costs preserve in itself its slight but
potent salting of sensibility and originality. In this world the
precious factor now became so diluted as to be ineffective. Henceforth
the desperately complex problems of the world were consistently bungled.
Civilization decayed. The race entered on a phase of what might be
called pseudo-civilized barbarism, which was in essence sub-human and
incapable of change. This state of affairs continued for some millions
of years, but at last the race was destroyed by the ravages of a small
rat-like animal against which it could devise no protection.

I must not stay to notice the strange fortunes of all the many other
quasi-human worlds. I will mention only that in some, though
civilization was destroyed in a succession of savage wars, the germ of
recovery precariously survived. In one, the agonizing balance of the old
and the new seemed to prolong itself indefinitely. In another, where
science had advanced too far for the safety of an immature species, man
accidentally blew up his planet and his race. In several, the
dialectical process of history was broken short by invasion and conquest
on the part of inhabitants of another planet. These and other disaster,
to be described in due course, decimated the galactic population of
worlds.

In conclusion I will mention that in one or two of these quasi-human
worlds a new and superior biological race emerged naturally during the
typical world crisis, gained power by sheer intelligence and sympathy,
took charge of the planet, persuaded the aborigines to cease breeding,
peopled the whole planet with its own superior type, and created a human
race which attained communal mentality, and rapidly advanced beyond the
limits of our exploring and over-strained understanding. Before our
contact failed, we were surprised to observe that, as the new species
superseded the old and took over the vast political and economic
activity of that world, it came to realize with laughter the futility of
all this feverish and aimless living. Under our eyes the old order began
to give place to a new and simpler order, in which the world was to be
peopled by a small "aristocratic" population served by machines, freed
alike from drudgery and luxury and intent on exploration of the cosmos
and the mind.

This change-over to a simpler life happened in several other worlds not
by the intervention of a new species, but simply by the victory of the
new mentality in its battle against the old.

3. NAUTILOIDS

As our exploration advanced and we gathered more and more helpers from
the many worlds that we entered, our imaginative insight into alien
natures increased. Though our research was still restricted to races
which were in the throes of the familiar spiritual crisis, we gradually
acquired the power of making contact with beings whose minds were very
far from human in texture. I must now try to give some idea of the main
types of these "non-human" intelligent worlds. In some cases the
difference from humanity, though physically striking, and even mentally
very remarkable, was not nearly so far-reaching as the cases to be
described in the next chapter.

In general the physical and mental form of conscious beings is an
expression of the character of the planet on which they live. On certain
very large and aqueous planets, for instance, we found that civilization
had been achieved by marine organisms. On these huge globes no
land-dwellers as large as a man could possibly thrive, for gravitation
would have nailed them to the ground. But in the water there was no such
limitation to bulk. One peculiarity of these big worlds was that, owing
to the crushing action of gravitation, there were seldom any great
elevations and depressions in their surface. Thus they were usually
covered by a shallow ocean, broken here and there by archipelagos of
small, low islands.

I shall describe one example of this kind of world, the greatest planet
of a mighty sun. Situated, if I remember rightly, near the congested
heart of the galaxy, this star was born late in galactic history, and it
gave birth to planets when already many of the older stars were
encrusted with smoldering lava. Owing to the violence of solar radiation
its nearer planets had (or will have) stormy climates. On one of them a
mollusc-like creature, living in the coastal shallows, acquired a
propensity to drift in its boat-like shell on the sea's surface, thus
keeping in touch with its drifting vegetable food. As the ages passed,
its shell became better adapted to navigation. Mere drifting was
supplemented by means of a crude sail, a membrane extending from the
creature's back. In time this nautiloid type proliferated into a host of
species. Some of these remained minute, but some found size
advantageous, and developed into living ships. One of these became the
intelligent master of this great world.

The hull was a rigid, stream-lined vessel, shaped much as the
nineteenth-century clipper in her prime, and larger than our largest
whale. At the rear a tentacle or fin developed into a rudder, which was
sometimes used also as a propeller, like a fish's tail. But though all
these species could navigate under their own power to some extent, their
normal means of long-distance locomotion was their great spread of sail.
The simple membranes of the ancestral type had become a system of
parchment-like sails and bony masts and spars, under voluntary muscular
control. Similarity to a ship was increased by the downward-looking
eyes, one on each side of the prow. The mainmast-head also bore eyes,
for searching the horizon. An organ of magnetic sensitivity in the brain
afforded a reliable means of orientation. At the fore end of the vessel
were two long manipulatory tentacles, which during locomotion were
folded snugly to the flanks. In use they formed a very serviceable pair
of arms. It may seem strange that a species of this kind should have
developed human intelligence. In more than one world of this type,
however, a number of accidents combined to produce this result. The
change from a vegetarian to a carnivorous habit caused a great increase
of animal cunning in pursuit of the much speedier submarine creatures.
The sense of hearing was wonderfully developed, for the movements of
fish at great distances could be detected by the underwater ears. A line
of taste-organs along either bilge responded to the ever-changing
composition of the water, and enabled the hunter to track his prey.
Delicacy of hearing and of taste combined with omnivorous habits, and
with great diversity of behavior and strong sociality, to favor the
growth of intelligence.

Speech, that essential medium of the developed mentality, had two
distinct modes in this world. For short-range communication, rhythmic
underwater emissions of gas from a vent in the rear of the organism were
heard and analyzed by means of underwater ears. Long-distance
communication was carried on by means of semaphore signals from a
rapidly agitating tentacle at the mast head.

The organizing of communal fishing expeditions, the invention of traps,
the making of lines and nets, the practice of agriculture, both in the
sea and along the shores, the building of stone harbors and work-shops,
the use of volcanic heat for smelting metals, and of wind for driving
mills, the projection of canals into the low islands in search of
minerals and fertile ground, the gradual exploration and mapping of a
huge world, the harnessing of solar radiation for mechanical power,
these and many other achievements were at once a product of intelligence
and an opportunity for its advancement.

It was a strange experience to enter the mind of an intelligent ship to
see the foam circling under one's own nose as the vessel plunged through
the waves, to taste the bitter or delicious currents streaming past
one's flanks, to feel the pressure of air on the sails as one beat up
against the breeze, to hear beneath the water-line the rush and murmur
of distant shoals of fishes, and indeed actually to hear the
sea-bottom's configuration by means of the echoes that it cast up to the
under-water ears. It was strange and terrifying to be caught in a
hurricane, to feel the masts straining and the sails threatening to
split, while the hull was battered by the small but furious waves of
that massive planet. It was strange, too, to watch other great living
ships, as they plowed their way, heeled over, adjusted the set of their
yellow or russet sails to the wind's variations; and very strange it was
to realize that these were not man-made objects but themselves conscious
and purposeful.

Sometimes we saw two of the living ships fighting, tearing at one
another's sails with snake-like tentacles, stabbing at one another's
soft "decks" with metal knives, or at a distance firing at one another
with cannon. Bewildering and delightful it was to feel in the presence
of a slim female clipper the longing for contact, and to carry out with
her on the high seas the tacking and yawing, the piratical pursuit and
overhauling, the delicate, fleeting caress of tentacles, which formed
the love-play of this race. Strange, to come up alongside, close-hauled,
grapple her to one's flank, and board her with sexual invasion. It was
charming, too, to see a mother ship attended by her children. I should
mention, by the way, that at birth the young were launched from the
mother's decks like little boats, one from the port side, one from the
starboard. Thenceforth they were suckled at her flanks. In play they
swam about her like ducklings, or spread their immature sails. In rough
weather and for long voyaging they were taken aboard. At the time of our
visit natural sails were beginning to be aided by a power unit and
propeller which were fixed to the stern. Great cities of concrete docks
had spread along many of the coasts, and were excavated out of the
hinterlands. We were delighted by the broad water-ways that served as
streets in these cities. They were thronged with sail and mechanized
traffic, the children appearing as tugs and smacks among the gigantic
elders.

It was in this world that we found in its most striking form a social
disease which is perhaps the commonest of all world-diseases--namely, the
splitting of the population into two mutually unintelligible castes
through the influence of economic forces. So great was the difference
between adults of the two castes that they seemed to us at first to be
distinct species, and we supposed ourselves to be witnessing the victory
of a new and superior biological mutation over its predecessor. But this
was far from the truth.

In appearance the masters were very different from the workers, quite as
different as queen ants and drones from the workers of their species.
They were more elegantly and accurately stream-lined. They had a greater
expanse of sail, and were faster in fair weather. In heavy seas they
were less seaworthy, owing to their finer lines; but on the other hand
they were the more skilful and venturesome navigators. Their
manipulatory tentacles were less muscular, but capable of finer
adjustments. Their perception was more delicate. While a small minority
of them perhaps excelled the best of the workers in endurance and
courage, most were much less hardy, both physically and mentally. They
were subject to a number of disintegrative diseases which never affected
the workers, chiefly diseases of the nervous system. On the other hand,
if any of them contracted one of the infectious ailments which were
endemic to the workers, but seldom fatal, he would almost certainly die.
They were also very prone to mental disorders, and particularly to
neurotic self-importance. The whole organization and control of the
world was theirs. The workers, on the other hand, though racked by
disease and neurosis bred of their cramping environment, were on the
whole psychologically more robust. They had, however, a crippling sense
of inferiority. Though in handicrafts and all small-scale operations
they were capable of intelligence and skill, they were liable, when
faced with tasks of wider scope, to a strange paralysis of mind.

The mentalities of the two castes were indeed strikingly different. The
masters were more prone to individual initiative and to the vices of
self-seeking. The workers were more addicted to collectivism and the
vices of subservience to the herd's hypnotic influence. The masters were
on the whole more prudent, far-seeing, independent, self-reliant; the
workers were more impetuous, more ready to sacrifice themselves in a
social cause, often more clearly aware of the right aims of social
activity, and incomparably more generous to individuals in distress.

At the time of our visit certain recent discoveries were throwing the
world into confusion. Hitherto it had been supposed that the natures of
the two castes were fixed unalterably, by divine law and by biological
inheritance. But it was now certain that this was not the case, and that
the physical and mental differences between the classes were due
entirely to nurture. Since time immemorial, the castes had been
recruited in a very curious manner. After weaning, all children born on
the port side of the mother, no matter what the parental caste, were
brought up to be members of the master caste; all those born on the
starboard side were brought up to be workers. Since the master class
had, of course, to be much smaller than the working class, this system
gave an immense superfluity of potential masters. The difficulty was
overcome as follows. The starboard-born children of workers and the
port-born children of masters were brought up by their own respective
parents; but the port-born, potentially aristocratic children of workers
were mostly disposed of by infant sacrifice. A few only were exchanged
with the starboard-born children of masters.

With the advance of industrialism, the increasing need for large
supplies of cheap labor, the spread of scientific ideas and the
weakening of religion, came the shocking discovery that port-born
children, of both classes, if brought up as workers, became physically
and mentally indistinguishable from workers. Industrial magnates in need
of plentiful cheap labor now developed moral indignation against infant
sacrifice, urging that the excess of port-born infants should be
mercifully brought up as workers. Presently certain misguided scientists
made the even more subversive discovery that starboard-born children
brought up as masters developed the fine lines, the great sails, the
delicate constitution, the aristocratic mentality of the master caste.
An attempt was made by the masters to prevent this knowledge from
spreading to the workers, but certain sentimentalists of their own caste
bruited it abroad, and preached a new-fangled and inflammatory doctrine
of social equality.

During our visit the world was in terrible confusion. In backward oceans
the old system remained unquestioned, but in all the more advanced
regions of the planet a desperate struggle was being waged. In one great
archipelago a social revolution had put the workers in power, and a
devoted though ruthless dictatorship was attempting so to plan the life
of the community that the next generation should be homogeneous and of a
new type, combining the most desirable characters of both workers and
masters. Elsewhere the masters had persuaded their workers that the new
ideas were false and base, and certain to lead to universal poverty and
misery. A clever appeal was made to the vague but increasing suspicion
that "materialistic science" was misleading and superficial, and that
mechanized civilization was crushing out the more spiritual
potentialities of the race. Skilled propaganda spread the ideal of a
kind of corporate state with "port and starboard flanks" correlated by a
popular dictator, who, it was said, would assume power "by divine right
and the will of the people."

I must not stay to tell of the desperate struggle which broke out
between these two kinds of social organizations. In the worldwide
campaigns many a harbor, many an ocean current, flowed red with
slaughter. Under the pressure of a war to the death, all that was best,
all that was most human and gentle on each side was crushed out by
military necessity. On the one side, the passion for a unified world,
where every individual should live a free and full life in service of
the world community, was overcome by the passion to punish spies,
traitors, and heretics. On the other, vague and sadly misguided
yearnings for a nobler, less materialistic life were cleverly
transformed by the reactionary leaders into vindictiveness against the
revolutionaries.

Very rapidly the material fabric of civilization fell to pieces. Not
till the race had reduced itself to an almost subhuman savagery, and all
the crazy traditions of a diseased civilization had been purged away,
along with true culture, could the spirit of these "ship-men" set out
again on the great adventure of the spirit. Many thousands of years
later it broke through on to that higher plane of being which I have
still to suggest, as best I may.



CHAPTER VI

INTIMATIONS OF THE STAR MAKER

IT must not be supposed that the normal fate of intelligent races in the
galaxy is to triumph. So far I have spoken mainly of those fortunate
Echinoderm and Nautiloid worlds which did at last pass triumphantly into
the more awakened state, and I have scarcely even mentioned the
hundreds, the thousands, of worlds which met disaster. This selection
was inevitable because my space is limited, and because these two
worlds, together with the even stranger spheres that I shall describe in
the next chapter, were to have great influence on the fortunes of the
whole galaxy. But many other worlds of "human" rank were quite as rich
in history as those which I have noticed. Individual lives in them were
no less varied than lives elsewhere, and no less crowded with distress
and joy. Some triumphed; some in their last phase suffered a downfall,
swift or slow, which lent them the splendor of tragedy. But since these
worlds play no special part in the main story of the galaxy, they must
be passed over in silence, along with the still greater host of worlds
which never attained even to "human" rank. If I were to dwell upon their
fortunes I should commit the same error as a historian who should try to
describe every private life and neglect the pattern of the whole
community.

I have already said that, as our experience of the destruction of worlds
increased, we were increasingly dismayed by the wastefulness and seeming
aimlessness of the universe. So many worlds, after so much distress,
attained so nearly to social peace and joy, only to have the cup
snatched from them forever. Often disaster was brought by some trivial
flaw of temperament or biological nature. Some races had not the
intelligence, some lacked the social will, to cope with the problems of
a unified world-community. Some were destroyed by an upstart bacterium
before their medical science was mature. Others succumbed to climatic
change, many to loss of atmosphere. Sometimes the end came through
collision with dense clouds of dust or gas, or with swarms of giant
meteors. Not a few worlds were destroyed by the downfall of a satellite.
The lesser body, plowing its way, age after age, through the extremely
rarefied but omnipresent cloud of free atoms in interstellar space,
would lose momentum. Its orbit would contract, at first slowly, then
rapidly. It would set up prodigious tides in the oceans of the larger
body, and drown much of its civilization. Later, through the increasing
stress of the planet's attraction, the great moon would begin to
disintegrate. First it would cast its ocean in a deluge on men's heads,
then its mountains, and then the titanic and fiery fragments of its
core. If in none of these manners came the end of the world, then
inevitably, though perhaps not till the latter days of the galaxy, it
must come in another way. The planet's own orbit, fatally contracting,
must bring every world at last so close to its sun that conditions must
pass beyond the limit of life's adaptability, and age by age all living
things must be parched to death and roasted.

Dismay, terror, horror many a time seized us as we witnessed these huge
disasters. An agony of pity for the last survivors of these worlds was
part of our schooling.

The most developed of the slaughtered worlds did not need our pity,
since their inhabitants seemed capable of meeting the end of all that
they cherished with peace, even a strange unshakable joy which we in
this early stage of our adventure could by no means comprehend. But only
a few, very few, could reach this state. And only a few out of the great
host of worlds could win through even to the social peace and fullness
toward which all were groping. In the more lowly worlds, moreover, few
were the individuals who won any satisfaction of life even within the
narrow bounds of their own imperfect nature. No doubt one or two, here
and there, in almost every world, found not merely happiness but the joy
that passes all understanding. But to us, crushed now by the suffering
and futility of a thousand races, it seemed that this joy itself, this
ecstasy, whether it was supported by scattered individuals or by whole
worlds, must after all be condemned as false, and that those who had
found it must after all have been drugged by their own private and
untypical well-being of spirit. For surely it had made them insensitive
to the horror around them.

The sustaining motive of our pilgrimage had been the hunger which
formerly drove men on Earth in search of God. Yes, we had one and all
left our native planets in order to discover whether, regarding the
cosmos as a whole, the spirit which we all in our hearts obscurely knew
and haltingly prized, the spirit which on Earth we sometimes call
humane, was Lord of the Universe, or outlaw; almighty, or crucified. And
now it was becoming clear to us that if the cosmos had any lord at all,
he was not that spirit but some other, whose purpose in creating the
endless fountain of worlds was not fatherly toward the beings that he
had made, but alien, inhuman, dark.

Yet while we felt dismay, we felt also increasingly the hunger to see
and to face fearlessly whatever spirit was indeed the spirit of this
cosmos. For as we pursued our pilgrimage, passing again and again from
tragedy to farce, from farce to glory, from glory often to final
tragedy, we felt increasingly the sense that some terrible, some holy,
yet at the same time unimaginably outrageous and lethal, secret lay just
beyond our reach. Again and again we were torn between horror and
fascination, between moral rage against the universe (or the Star Maker)
and unreasonable worship.

This same conflict was to be observed in all those worlds that were of
our own mental stature. Observing these worlds and the phases of their
past growth, and groping as best we might toward the next plane of
spiritual development, we came at last to see plainly the first stages
of any world's pilgrimage. Even in the most primitive ages of every
normal intelligent world there existed in some minds the impulse to seek
and to praise some universal thing. At first this impulse was confused
with the craving for protection by some mighty power. Inevitably the
beings theorized that the admired thing must be Power, and that worship
was mere propitiation. Thus they came to conceive the almighty tyrant of
the universe, with themselves as his favored children. But in time it
became clear to their prophets that mere Power was not what the
praiseful heart adored. Then theory enthroned Wisdom, or Law, or
Righteousness. And after an age of obedience to some phantom lawgiver,
or to divine legality itself, the beings found that these concepts too
were inadequate to describe the indescribable glory that the heart
confronted in all things, and mutely prized in all things.

But now, in every world that we visited, alternative ways opened out
before the worshippers. Some hoped to come face to face with their
shrouded god solely by inward-searching meditation. By purging
themselves of all lesser, all trivial: desires, by striving to see
everything dispassionately and with universal sympathy, they hoped to
identify themselves with the spirit of the cosmos. Often they traveled
far along the way of self-perfecting and awakening. But because of this
inward absorption most of them became insensitive to the suffering of
their less-awakened fellows and careless of the communal enterprise of
their kind. In not a few worlds this way of the spirit was thronged by
all the most vital minds.

And because the best attention of the race was given wholly to the inner
life, material and social advancement was checked. The sciences of
physical nature and of life never developed. Mechanical power remained
unknown, and medical and biological power also. Consequently these
worlds stagnated, and sooner or later succumbed to accidents, which
might well have been prevented.

There was a second way of devotion, open to creatures of a more
practical temperament. These, in all the worlds, gave delighted
attention to the universe around them, and chiefly they found the
worshipped thing in the persons of their fellow-beings, and in the
communal bond of mutual insight and love between persons. In themselves
and in each other they prized above all things love.

And their prophets told them that the thing which they had always
adored, the universal spirit, the Creator, the Almighty, the All-wise,
was also the All-loving. Let them therefore worship in practical love of
one another, and in service or the Love-God. And so for an age, short or
long, they strove feebly to love and to become members one of another.
They spun theories in defense of the theory of the Love-God. They set up
priesthoods and temples in service of Love. And because they hungered
for immortality they were told that to love was the way to attain
eternal life. And so love, which seeks no reward, was misconceived.

In most worlds these practical minds dominated over the meditators.
Sooner or later practical curiosity and economic need produced the
material sciences. Probing every region with these sciences, the beings
found nowhere, neither in the atom nor in the galaxy, nor for that
matter in the heart of "man" either, any signature of the Love-God. And
what with the fever of mechanization, and the exploitation of slaves by
masters, and the passions of intertribal warfare, and the increasing
neglect or coarsening of all the more awakened activities of the spirit,
the little flame of praise in their hearts sank lower than it had ever
been in any earlier age, so low that they could no longer recognize it.
And the flame of love, long fanned by the forced draught of doctrine,
but now suffocated by the general obtuseness of the beings to one
another, was reduced to an occasional smoldering warmth, which was most
often mistaken for mere lust. With bitter laughter and rage the tortured
beings now dethroned the image of the Love-God in their hearts.

And so without love and without worship the unhappy beings faced the
increasingly formidable problems of their mechanized and hate-racked
world.

This was the crisis which we in our own worlds knew so well. Many a
world up and down the galaxy never surmounted it. But in a few, some
miracle, which we could not yet clearly envisage, raised the average
minds of these worlds to a higher plane of mentality. Of this I shall
speak later. Meanwhile I will say only that in the few worlds where this
happened, we noticed invariably, before the minds of that world passed
beyond our reach, a new feeling about the universe, a feeling which it
was very difficult for us to share. Not till we had learned to conjure
in ourselves something of this feeling could we follow the fortunes of
these worlds.

But, as we advanced on our pilgrimage, our own desires began to change.
We came to wonder whether, in demanding lordship of the universe for the
divinely humane spirit that we prized most in ourselves and in our
fellow-mortals in all the worlds, we were perhaps impious. We came less
and less to require that Love should be enthroned behind the stars; more
and more we desired merely to pass on, opening our hearts to accept
fearlessly whatever of the truth might fall within our comprehension.

There was a moment, late in this early phase of our pilgrimage, when,
thinking and feeling in unison, we said to one another, "If the Star
Maker is Love, we know that this must be right. But if he is not, if he
is some other, some inhuman spirit, this must be right. And if he is
nothing, if the stars and all else are not his creatures but
self-subsistent, and if the adored spirit is but an exquisite creature
of our minds, then this must be right, this and no other possibility.
For we cannot know whether the highest place for love is on the throne
or on the cross. We cannot know what spirit rules, for on the throne
sits darkness. We know, we have seen, that in the waste of stars love is
indeed crucified; and rightly, for its own proving, and for the throne's
glory. Love and all that is humane we cherish in our hearts. Yet also we
salute the throne and the darkness upon the throne. Whether it be Love
or not Love, our hearts praise it, out-soaring reason."

But before our hearts could be properly attuned to this new, strange
feeling, we had still far to go in the understanding of worlds of human
rank, though diverse. I must now try to give some idea of several kinds
of worlds very different from our own, but not in essentials more
mature.



CHAPTER VII

MORE WORLDS

1. A SYMBOLIC RACE

ON certain large planets, whose climates, owing to the proximity of a
violent sun, were very much hotter than our tropics, we sometimes found
an intelligent fish-like race. It was bewildering to us to discover that
a submarine world could rise to mentality of human rank, and to that
drama of the spirit, which we had now so often encountered.

The very shallow and sun-drenched oceans of these great planets provided
an immense diversity of habitats and a great wealth of living things.
Green vegetation, which could be classified as tropical, subtropical,
temperate and arctic, basked on the bright ocean floors. There were
submarine prairies and forests. In some regions the giant weeds
stretched from the sea-bottom to the waves. In these jungles the blue
and blinding light of the sun was reduced almost to darkness. Immense
coral-like growths, honeycombed with passages and swarming with all
manner of live-things, lifted their spires and turrets to the surface.
Innumerable kinds of fish-like creatures of all sizes from sprat to
whale inhabited the many levels of the waters, some gliding on the
bottom, some daring an occasional leap into the torrid air. In the
deepest and darkest regions hosts of sea-monsters, eyeless or luminous,
browsed on the ceaseless rain of corpses which sank from the upper
levels. Over their deep world lay other worlds of increasing brightness
and color, where gaudy populations basked, browsed, stalked, or hunted
with arrowy flight. Intelligence in these planets was generally achieved
by some unimposing social creature, neither fish nor octopus nor
crustacean, but something of all three. It would be equipped with
manipulatory tentacles, keen eyes and subtle brain. It would make nests
of weed in the crevices of the coral, or build strongholds of coral
masonry. In time would appear traps, weapons, tools, submarine
agriculture, the blossoming of primitive art, the ritual of primitive
religion. Then would follow the typical fluctuating advance of the
spirit from barbarism to civilization.

One of these submarine worlds was exceptionally interesting. Early in
the life of our galaxy, when few of the stars had yet condensed from the
"giant" to the solar type, when very few planetary births had yet
occurred, a double star and a single star in a congested cluster did
actually approach one another, reach fiery filaments toward one another,
and spawn a planet brood. Of these worlds, one, an immense and very
aqueous sphere, produced in time a dominant race which was not a single
species but an intimate symbiotic partnership of two very alien
creatures. The one came of a fish-like stock. The other was in
appearance something like a crustacean. In form it was a sort of
paddle-footed crab or marine spider. Unlike our crustaceans, it was
covered not with a brittle carapace but with a tough pachydermatous
hide. In maturity this serviceable jerkin was more or less rigid, save
at the joints; but in youth it was very pliant to the still-expanding
brain. This creature lived on the coasts and in the coastal waters of
the many islands of the planet. Both species were mentally of human
rank, though each had specific temperament and ability. In primitive
times each had attained by its own route and in its own hemisphere of
the great aqueous planet to what might be called the last stage of the
subhuman mentality. The two species had then come into contact, and had
grappled desperately. Their battle-ground was the shallow coastal water.
The "crustaceans," though crudely amphibian, could not spend long under
the sea; the "fish" could not emerge from it. The two races did not
seriously compete with one another in economic life, for the "fish" were
mainly vegetarian, the "crustaceans" mainly carnivorous; yet neither
could tolerate the presence of the other. Both were sufficiently human
to be aware of one another as rival aristocrats in a subhuman world, but
neither was human enough to realize that for each race the way of life
lay in cooperation with the other. The fish-like creatures, which I
shall call "ichthyoids," had speed and range of travel. They had also
the security of bulk. The crab-like or spider-like "crustaceans," which
I shall call "arachnoids," had greater manual dexterity, and had also
access to the dry land. Cooperation would have been very beneficial to
both species, for one of the staple foods of the arachnoids was
parasitic to the ichthyoids.

In spite of the possibility of mutual aid, the two races strove to
exterminate one another, and almost succeeded. After an age of blind
mutual slaughter, certain of the less pugnacious and more flexible
varieties of the two species gradually discovered profit in
fraternization with the enemy.

This was the beginning of a very remarkable partnership. Soon the
arachnoids took to riding on the backs of the swift ichthyoids, and thus
gained access to more remote hunting grounds.

As the epochs passed, the two species molded one another to form a
well-integrated union. The little arachnoid, no bigger than a
chimpanzee, rode in a snug hollow behind the great "fish's" skull, his
back being stream-lined with the contours of the larger creature. The
tentacles of the ichthyoid were specialized for large-scale
manipulation, those of the arachnoid for minute work. A biochemical
interdependence also evolved. Through a membrane in the ichthyoid's
pouch an exchange of endocrine products took place. The mechanism
enabled the arachnoid to become fully aquatic. So long as it had
frequent contact with its host, it could stay under water for any length
of time and descend to any depth. A striking mental adaptation also
occurred in the two species. The ichthyoids became on the whole more
introvert, the arachnoids more extrovert.

Up to puberty the young of both species were free-living individuals;
but, as their symbiotic organization developed, each sought out a
partner of the opposite species. The union which followed was life-long,
and was interrupted only by brief sexual matings. The symbiosis itself
constituted a kind of contrapuntal sexuality; but a sexuality that was
purely mental, since, of course, for copulation and reproduction each
individual had to seek out a partner belonging to his or her own
species. We found, however, that even the symbiotic partnership
consisted invariably of a male of one species and a female of the other;
and the male, whichever his species, behaved with parental devotion to
the young of his symbiotic partner.

I have not space to describe the extraordinary mental reciprocity of
these strange couples. I can only say that, though in sensory equipment
and in temperament the two species were very different, and though in
abnormal cases tragic conflicts did occur, the ordinary partnership was
at once more intimate than human marriage and far more enlarging to the
individual than any friendship between members of distinct human races.
At certain stages of the growth of civilization malicious minds had
attempted to arouse widespread interspecific conflict, and had met with
temporary success; but the trouble seldom went as deep even as our "sex
war," so necessary was each species to the other. Both had contributed
equally to the culture of their world, though not equally at all times.
In creative work of every kind one of the partners provided most of the
originality, the other most of the criticism and restraint. Work in
which one partner was entirely passive was rare. Books, or rather
scrolls, which were made from pulped seaweed, were nearly always signed
by couples. On the whole the arachnoid partners dominated in manual
skill, experimental science, the plastic arts, and practical social
organization. The ichthyoid partners excelled in theoretical work, in
literary arts, in the surprisingly developed music of that submarine
world, and in the more mystical kind of religion. This generalization,
however, should not be interpreted very strictly.

The symbiotic relationship seems to have given the dual race a far
greater mental flexibility than ours, and a quicker aptitude for
community. It passed rapidly through the phase of inter-tribal strife,
during which the nomadic shoals of symbiotic couples harried one another
like hosts of submarine-cavalry; for the arachnoids, riding their
ichthyoid mates, attacked the enemy with bone spears and swords, while
their mounts wrestled with powerful tentacles. But the phase of tribal
warfare was remarkably brief. When a settled mode of life was attained,
along with submarine agriculture and coral-built cities, strife between
leagues of cities was the exception, not the rule. Aided no doubt by its
great mobility and ease of communication, the dual race soon built up a
world-wide and unarmed federation of cities. We learned also with wonder
that at the height of the pre-mechanical civilization of this planet,
when in our worlds the cleavage into masters and economic slaves would
already have become serious, the communal spirit of the city triumphed
over all individualistic enterprise. Very soon this world became a
tissue of interdependent but independent municipal communes.

At this time it seemed that social strife had vanished forever. But the
most serious crisis of the race was still to come.

The submarine environment offered the symbiotic race no great
possibilities of advancement. All sources of wealth had been tapped and
regularized. Population was maintained at an optimum size for the joyful
working of the world. The social order was satisfactory to all classes,
and seemed unlikely to change. Individual lives were full and varied.
Culture, founded on a great tradition, was now concerned entirely with
detailed exploration of the great fields of thought that had long ago
been pioneered by the revered ancestors, under direct inspiration, it
was said, of the symbiotic deity. Our friends in this submarine world,
our mental hosts, looked back on this age from their own more turbulent
epoch sometimes with yearning, but often with horror; for in retrospect
it seemed to them to display the first faint signs of racial decay. So
perfectly did the race fit its unchanging environment that intelligence
and acuity were already ceasing to be precious, and might soon begin to
fade. But presently it appeared that fate had decreed otherwise.

In a submarine world the possibility of obtaining mechanical power was
remote. But the arachnoids, it will be remembered, were able to live out
of the water. In the epochs before the symbiosis their ancestors had
periodically emerged upon the islands, for courtship, parenthood, and
the pursuit of prey. Since those days the air-breathing capacity had
declined, but it had never been entirely lost. Every arachnoid still
emerged for sexual mating, and also for certain ritual gymnastic
exercises. It was in this latter connection that the great discovery was
made which changed the course of history. At a certain tournament the
friction of stone weapons, clashing against one another, produced
sparks, and fire among the sun-scorched grasses.

In startlingly quick succession came smelting, the steam engine, the
electric current. Power was obtained first from the combustion of a sort
of peat formed on the coasts by congested marine vegetation, later from
the constant and violent winds, later still from photo-chemical light
traps which absorbed the sun's lavish radiation. These inventions were
of course the work of arachnoids. The ichthyoids, though they still
played a great part in the systematization of knowledge, were debarred
from the great practical work of scientific experiment and mechanical
invention above the seas. Soon the arachnoids were running electric
cables from the island power-stations to the submarine cities. In this
work, at least, the ichthyoids could take part, but their part was
necessarily subordinate. Not only in experience of electrical
engineering but also in native practical ability, they were eclipsed by
their arachnoid partners.

For a couple of centuries or more the two species continued to
cooperate, though with increasing strain. Artificial lighting,
mechanical transport of goods on the ocean floor, and large-scale
manufacture, produced an immense increase in the amenities of life in
the submarine cities. The islands were crowded with buildings devoted to
science and industry. Physics, chemistry, and biology made great
progress. Astronomers began to map the galaxy. They also discovered that
a neighboring planet offered wonderful opportunities for settlement by
arachnoids, who might without great difficulty, it was hoped, be
conditioned to the alien climate, and to divorce from their symbiotic
partners. The first attempts at rocket flight were leading to mingled
tragedy and success. The directorate of extra-marine activities demanded
a much increased arachnoid population.

Inevitably there arose a conflict between the two species, and in the
mind of every individual of either species. It was at the height of this
conflict, and in the spiritual crisis in virtue of which these beings
were accessible to us in our novitiate stage, that we first entered this
world. The ichthyoids had not yet succumbed biologically to their
inferior position, but psychologically they were already showing signs
of deep mental decay. A profound disheartenment and lassitude attacked
them, like that which so often undermines our primitive races when they
find themselves struggling in the flood of European civilization. But
since in the case of the symbiotics the relation between the two races
was extremely intimate, far more so than that between the most intimate
human beings, the plight of the ichthyoids deeply affected the
arachnoids. And in the minds of the ichthyoids the triumph of their
partners was for long a source of mingled distress and exultation. Every
individual of both species was torn between conflicting motives. While
every healthy arachnoid longed to take part in the adventurous new life,
he or she longed also, through sheer affection and symbiotic
entanglement, to assist his or her ichthyoid mate to have an equal share
in that life. Further, all arachnoids were aware of subtle dependence on
their mates, a dependence at once physiological and psychological. It
was the ichthyoids who mostly contributed to the mental symbiosis the
power of self-knowledge and mutual insight, and the contemplation which
is so necessary to keep action sweet and sane. That this was so was
evident from the fact that already among the arachnoids internecine
strife had appeared. Island tended to compete with island, and one great
industrial organization with another.

I could not help remarking that if this deep cleavage of interests had
occurred on my own planet, say between our two sexes, the favoured sex
would have single-mindedly trampled the other into servitude. Such a
"victory" on the part of the arachnoids did indeed nearly occur. More
and more partnerships were dissolved, each member attempting by means of
drugs to supply his or her system with the chemicals normally provided
by the symbiosis. For mental dependence, however, there was no
substitute, and the divorced partners were subject to serious mental
disorders, either subtle or flagrant. Nevertheless, there grew up a
large population capable of living after a fashion without the symbiotic
intercourse. Strife now took a violent turn. The intransigents of both
species attacked one another, and stirred up trouble among the
moderates. There followed a period of desperate and confused warfare. On
each side a small and hated minority advocated a "modernized symbiosis,"
in which each species should be able to contribute to the common life
even in a mechanized civilization. Many of these reformers were martyred
for their faith.

Victory would in the long run have gone to the arachnoids, for they
controlled the sources of power. But it soon appeared that the attempt
to break the symbiotic bond was not as successful as it had seemed. Even
in actual warfare, commanders were unable to prevent widespread
fraternization between the opposed forces. Members of dissolved
partnerships would furtively meet to snatch a few hours or moments of
each other's company. Widowed or deserted individuals of each species
would timidly but hungrily venture toward the enemy's camps in search of
new mates. Whole companies would surrender for the same purpose. The
arachnoids suffered more from the neuroses than from the weapons of the
enemy. On the islands, moreover, civil wars and social revolutions made
the manufacture of munitions almost impossible.

The most resolute faction of the arachnoids now attempted to bring the
struggle to an end by poisoning the ocean. The islands in turn were
poisoned by the millions of decaying corpses that rose to the sea's
surface and were cast up on the shores. Poison, plague, and above all
neurosis, brought war to a standstill, civilization to ruin, and the two
species almost to extinction. The deserted sky-scrapers that crowded the
islands began to crumble into heaps of wreckage. The submarine cities
were invaded by the submarine jungle and by shark-like sub-human
ichthyoids of many species. The delicate tissue of knowledge began to
disintegrate into fragments of superstition.

Now at last came the opportunity of those who advocated a modernized
symbiosis. With difficulty they had maintained a secret existence and
their individual partnerships in the more remote and inhospitable
regions of the planet. They now came boldly forth to spread their gospel
among the unhappy remnants of the world's population. There was a rage
of interspecific mating and remating. Primitive submarine agriculture
and hunting maintained the scattered peoples while a few of the coral
cities were cleared and rebuilt, and the instruments of a lean but
hopeful civilization were refashioned. This was a temporary
civilization, without mechanical power, but one which promised itself
great adventures in the "upper world" as soon as it had established the
basic principles of the reformed symbiosis.

To us it seemed that such an enterprise was doomed to failure, so clear
was it that the future lay with a terrestrial rather than a marine
creature. But we were mistaken. I must not tell in detail of the heroic
struggle by which the race refashioned its symbiotic nature to suit the
career that lay before it. The first stage was the reinstatement of
power stations on the islands, and the careful reorganization of a
purely submarine society equipped with power. But this reconstruction
would have been useless had it not been accompanied by a very careful
study of the physical and mental relations of the two species. The
symbiosis had to be strengthened so that interspecific strife should in
future be impossible. By means of chemical treatment in infancy the two
kinds of organism were made more interdependent, and in partnership more
hardy. By a special psychological ritual, a sort of mutual hypnosis, all
newly joined partners were henceforth brought into indissoluble mental
reciprocity. This interspecific communion, which every individual knew
in immediate domestic experience, became in time the basic experience of
all culture and religion. The symbiotic deity, which figured in all the
primitive mythologies, was reinstated as a symbol of the dual
personality of the universe, a dualism, it was said, of creativity and
wisdom, unified as the divine spirit of love. The one reasonable goal of
social life was affirmed to be the creation of a world of awakened, of
sensitive, intelligent, and mutually understanding personalities, banded
together for the common purpose of exploring the universe and developing
the "human" spirit's manifold potentialities. Imperceptibly the young
were led to discover for themselves this goal.

Gradually and very cautiously all the industrial operations and
scientific researches of an earlier age were repeated, but with a
difference. Industry was subordinated to the conscious social goal.
Science, formerly the slave of industry, became the free colleague of
wisdom.

Once more the islands were crowded with buildings and with eager
arachnoid workers. But all the shallow coastal waters were filled with a
vast honeycomb of dwelling-houses, where the symbiotic partners took
rest and refreshment with their mates. In the ocean depths the old
cities were turned into schools, universities, museums, temples, palaces
of art and of pleasure. There the young of both kinds grew up together.
There the full-grown of both species met constantly for recreation and
stimulation. There, while the arachnoids were busy on the islands, the
ichthyoids performed their work of education and of refashioning the
whole theoretical culture of the world. For it was known clearly by now
that in this field their temperament and talents could make a vital
contribution to the common life. Thus literature, philosophy, and
non-scientific education were carried out chiefly in the ocean; while on
the islands industry, scientific inquiry, and the plastic arts were more
prominent.

Perhaps, in spite of the close union of each couple, this strange
division of labor would have led in time to renewed conflict, had it not
been for two new discoveries. One was the development of telepathy.
Several centuries after the Age of War it was found possible to
establish full telepathic intercourse between the two members of each
couple. In time this intercourse was extended to include the whole dual
race. The first result of this change was a great increase in the
facility of communication between individuals all over the world, and
therewith a great increase in mutual understanding and in unity of
social purpose. But before we lost touch with this rapidly advancing
race we had evidence of a much more far-reaching effect of universal
telepathy. Sometimes, so we were told, telepathic communion of the whole
race caused something like the fragmentary awakening of a communal
world-mind in which all individuals participated.

The second great innovation of the race was due to genetic research. The
arachnoids, who had to remain capable of active life on dry land and on
a massive planet, could not achieve any great improvement in brain
weight and complexity; but the ichthyoids, who were already large and
were buoyed up by the water, were not subject to this limitation. After
long and often disastrous experiment a race of "super-ichthyoids" was
produced. In time the whole ichthyoid population came to consist of
these creatures. Meanwhile the arachnoids, who were by now exploring and
colonizing other planets of their solar system, were genetically
improved not in respect of general brain complexity but in those special
brain centers which afforded telepathic intercourse. Thus, in spite of
their simpler brain-structure, they were able to maintain full
telepathic community even with their big-brained mates far away in the
oceans of the mother-planet. The simple brains and the complex brains
formed now a single system, in which each unit, however simple its own
contribution, was sensitive to the whole.

It was at this point, when the original ichthyoid race had given place
to the super-ichthyoids, that we finally lost touch. The experience of
the dual race passed completely beyond our comprehension. At a much
later stage of our adventure we came upon them again, and on a higher
plane of being. They were by then already engaged upon the vast common
enterprise which, as I shall tell, was undertaken by the Galactic
Society of Worlds. At this time the symbiotic race consisted of an
immense host of arachnoid adventurers scattered over many planets, and a
company of some fifty thousand million super-ichthyoids living a life of
natatory delight and intense mental activity in the ocean of their great
native world. Even at this stage physical contact between the symbiotic
partners had to be maintained, though at long intervals. There was a
constant stream of space-ships between the colonies and the
mother-world. The ichthyoids, together with their teeming colleagues on
a score of planets, supported a racial mind. Though the threads of the
common experience were spun by the whole symbiotic race, they were woven
into a single web by the ichthyoids alone in their primeval oceanic
home, to be shared by all members of both races.

2. COMPOSITE BEINGS

Sometimes in the course of our adventure we came upon worlds inhabited
by intelligent beings, whose developed personality was an expression not
of the single individual organism but of a group of organisms. In most
cases this state of affairs had arisen through the necessity of
combining intelligence with lightness of the individual body. A large
planet, rather close to its sun, or swayed by a very large satellite,
would be swept by great ocean tides. Vast areas of its surface would be
periodically submerged and exposed. In such a world flight was very
desirable, but owing to the strength of gravitation only a small
creature, a relatively small mass of molecules, could fly. A brain large
enough for complex "human" activity could not have been lifted.

In such worlds the organic basis of intelligence was often a swarm of
avian creatures no bigger than sparrows. A host of individual bodies
were possessed together by a single individual mind of human rank. The
body of this mind was multiple, but the mind itself was almost as firmly
knit as the mind of a man. As flocks of dunlin or redshank stream and
wheel and soar and quiver over our estuaries, so above the great
tide-flooded cultivated regions of these worlds the animated clouds of
avians maneuvered, each cloud a single center of consciousness.
Presently, like our own winged waders, the little avians would settle,
the huge volume of the cloud shrinking to a mere film upon the ground, a
sort of precipitate along the fringe of the receding tide.

Life in these worlds was rhythmically divided by the tides. During the
nocturnal tides the bird-clouds all slept on the waves. During the
day-time tides they indulged in aerial sports and religious exercises.
But twice a day, when the land was dry, they cultivated the drenched
ooze, or carried out in their cities of concrete cells all the
operations of industry and culture. It was interesting to us to see how
ingeniously, before the tide's return, all the instruments of
civilization were sealed from the ravages of the water.

We supposed at first that the mental unity of these little avians was
telepathic, but in fact it was not. It was based on the unity of a
complex electromagnetic field, in fact on "radio" waves permeating the
whole group. Radio, transmitted and received by every individual
organism, corresponded to the chemical nerve current which maintains the
unity of the human nervous system. Each brain reverberated with the
ethereal rhythms of its environment; and each contributed its own
peculiar theme to the complex pattern of the whole. So long as the flock
was within a volume of about a cubic mile, the individuals were mentally
unified, each serving as a specialized center in the common "brain." But
if some were separated from the flock, as sometimes happened in stormy
weather, they lost mental contact and became separate minds of very low
order. In fact each degenerated for the time being into a very simple
instinctive animal or a system of reflexes, set wholly for the task of
restoring contact with the flock.

It may easily be imagined that the mental life of these composite beings
was very different from anything which we had yet encountered. Different
and yet the same. Like a man, the bird-cloud was capable of anger and
fear, hunger and sexual hunger, personal love and all the passions of
the herd; but the medium of these experiences was so different from
anything known to us that we found great difficulty in recognizing them.

Sex, for instance, was very perplexing. Each cloud was bisexual, having
some hundreds of specialized male and female avian units, indifferent to
one another, but very responsive to the presence of other bird-clouds.
We found that in these strange multiple beings the delight and shame of
bodily contact were obtained not only through actual sexual union of the
specialized sexual members but, with the most exquisite subtlety, in
the aerial interfusion of two flying clouds during the performance of
courtship gymnastics in the air.

More important for us than this superficial likeness to ourselves was an
underlying parity of mental rank. Indeed, we should not have gained
access to them at all had it not been for the essential similarity of
their evolutionary stage with that which we knew so well in our own
worlds. For each one of these mobile-minded clouds of little birds was
in fact an individual approximately of our own spiritual order, indeed a
very human thing, torn between the beast and the angel, capable of
ecstasies of love and hate toward other such bird-clouds, capable of
wisdom and folly, and the whole gamut of human passions from swinishness
to ecstatic contemplation.

Probing as best we could beyond the formal similarity of spirit which
gave us access to the bird-clouds, we discovered painfully how to see
with a million eyes at once, how to feel the texture of the atmosphere
with a million wings. We learned to interpret the composite percepts of
mud-flats and marshes and great agricultural regions, irrigated twice
daily by the tide. We admired the great tide-driven turbines and the
system of electric transport of freight. We discovered that the forests
of high concrete poles or minarets, and platforms on stilts, which stood
in the shallowest of the tidal areas, were nurseries where the young
were tended till they could fly.

Little by little we learned to understand something of the alien thought
of these strange beings, which was in its detailed texture so different
from our own, yet in general pattern and significance so similar. Time
presses, and I must not try even to sketch the immense complexity of the
most developed of these worlds. So much else has still to be told. I
will say only that, since the individuality of these bird-clouds was
more precarious than human individuality, it was apt to be better
understood and more justly valued. The constant danger of the
bird-clouds was physical and mental disintegration. Consequently the
ideal of the coherent self was very prominent in all their cultures. On
the other hand, the danger that the self of the bird-cloud would be
psychically invaded and violated by its neighbors, much as one radio
station may interfere with another, forced these beings to guard more
carefully than ourselves against the temptations of the herd, against
drowning the individual cloud's self in the mob of clouds. But again,
just because this danger was effectively guarded against, the ideal of
the world-wide community developed without any life-and-death struggle
with mystical tribalism, such as we know too well. Instead the struggle
was simply between individualism and the twin ideals of the
world-community and the world-mind.

At the time of our visit world-wide conflict was already breaking out
between the two parties in every region of the planet. The
individualists were stronger in one hemisphere, and were slaughtering
all adherents of the world-mind ideal, and mustering their forces for
attack on the other hemisphere. Here the party of the world-mind
dominated, not by weapons but by sheer radio-bombardment, so to speak.
The pattern of ethereal undulations issuing from the party imposed
itself by sheer force on all recalcitrants. All rebels were either
mentally disintegrated by radio-bombardment or were absorbed intact into
the communal radio system. The war which ensued was to us astounding.
The individualists used artillery and poison gas. The party of the
world-mind used these weapons far less than the radio, which they, but
not their enemies, could operate with irresistible effect. So greatly
was the radio system strengthened, and so adapted to the physiological
receptivity of the avian units, that before the individualists had done
serious harm, they found themselves engulfed, so to speak, in an
overwhelming torrent of radio stimulation. Their individuality crumbled
away. The avian units that made up their composite bodies were either
destroyed (if they were specialized for war), or reorganized into new
clouds, loyal to the world-mind.

Shortly after the defeat of the individualists we lost touch with this
race. The experience and the social problems of the young world-mind
were incomprehensible to us. Not till a much later stage of our
adventure did we regain contact with it.

Others of the worlds inhabited by races of bird-clouds were less
fortunate. Most, through one cause or another, came to grief. In many of
them the stresses of industrialism or of social unrest brought about a
plague of insanity, or disintegration of the individual into a swarm of
mere reflex animals. These miserable little creatures, which had not the
power of independent intelligent behavior, were slaughtered in myriads
by natural forces and beasts of prey. Presently the stage was clear for
some worm or amoeba to reinaugurate the great adventure of biological
evolution toward the human plane.

In the course of our exploration we came upon other types of composite
individuals. For instance, we found that very large dry planets were
sometimes inhabited by populations of insect-like creatures each of
whose swarms of nests was the multiple body of a single mind. These
planets were so large that no mobile organism could be bigger than a
beetle, no flying organism bigger than an ant. In the intelligent swarms
that fulfilled the part of men in these worlds, the microscopic brains
of the insect-like units were specialized for microscopic functions
within the group, much as the members of an ant's nest are specialized
for working, fighting, reproduction, and so on. All were mobile, but
each class of the units fulfilled special "neurological" functions in
the life of the whole. In fact they acted as though they were special
types of cells in a nervous system.

In these worlds, as in the worlds of the bird-clouds, we had to accustom
ourselves to the unified awareness of a huge swarm of units. With
innumerable hurrying feet we crept along Lilliputian concrete passages,
with innumerable manipulatory antennae we took part in obscure
industrial or agricultural operations, or in the navigation of toy ships
on the canals and lakes of these flat worlds. Through innumerable
many-faceted eyes we surveyed the plains of moss-like vegetation or
studied the stars with minute telescopes and spectroscopes.

So perfectly organized was the life of the minded swarm that all routine
activities of industry and agriculture had become, from the point of
view of the swarm's mind, unconscious, like the digestive processes of a
human being. The little insectoid units themselves carried on these
operations consciously, though without understanding their significance;
but the mind of the swarm had lost the power of attending to them. Its
concern was almost wholly with such activities as called for unified
conscious control, in fact with practical and theoretical invention of
all kinds and with physical and mental exploration.

At the time of our visit to the most striking of these insectoid worlds
the world-population consisted of many great nations of swarms. Each
individual swarm had its own nest, its Lilliputian city, an area of
about an acre, in which the ground was honey-combed to a depth of two
feet with chambers and passages. The surrounding district was devoted to
the cultivation of the moss-like food-plants. As the swarm increased in
size, colonies might be founded beyond the range of the physiological
radio system of the parent swarm. Thus arose new group-individuals. But
neither in this race, nor in the race of bird-clouds, was there anything
corresponding to our successive generations of individual minds. Within
the minded group, the insectoid units were ever dying off and giving
place to fresh units, but the mind of the group was potentially
immortal. The units succeeded one another; the group-self persisted. Its
memory reached back past countless generations of units, fading as it
receded, and finally losing itself in that archaic time when the "human"
was emerging from the "sub-human." Thus the civilized swarms had vague
and fragmentary memories of every historical period.

Civilization had turned the old disorderly warrens into carefully
planned subterranean cities; had turned the old irrigation channels into
a widespread mesh of waterways for the transport of freight from
district to district; had introduced mechanical power, based on the
combustion of vegetable matter; had smelted metals from outcrops and
alluvial deposits; had produced the extraordinary tissue of minute,
almost microscopic machinery which had so greatly improved the comfort
and health of the more advanced regions; had produced also myriads of
tiny vehicles, corresponding to our tractors, trains, ships; had created
class distinctions between those group-individuals that remained
primarily agricultural, those that were mainly industrial, and those
that specialized in intelligent co-ordination of their country's
activities. These last became in time the bureaucratic tyrants of the
country. Owing to the great size of the planet and the extreme
difficulty of long-distance travel by creatures so small as the
insectoid units, civilizations had developed independently in a score of
insulated regions; and when at last they came in contact, many of them
were already highly industrialized, and equipped with the most "modern"
weapons. The reader may easily imagine what happened when races that
were in most cases biologically of different species, and anyhow were completely alien in customs, thought, and ideals, suddenly found
themselves in contact and in conflict. It would be wearisome to describe
the insane warfare which ensued. But it is of interest to note that we,
the telepathic visitors from regions remote in time and space, could
communicate with these warring hosts more easily than one host could
communicate with another. And through this power we were actually able
to play an important part in the history of this world. Indeed, it was
probably through our mediation that these races were saved from mutual
destruction. Taking up positions in "key" minds on each side of the
conflict, we patiently induced in our hosts some insight into the
mentality of the enemy. And since each of these races had already passed
far beyond the level of sociality known on the Earth, since in relation
to the life of his own race a swarm-mind was capable of true community,
the realization of the enemy as being not monstrous but essentially
humane, was enough to annihilate the will to fight.

The "key" minds on either side, enlightened by "divine messengers,"
heroically preached peace. And though many of them were hastily
martyred, their cause triumphed. The races made terms with each other;
all save two formidable and culturally rather backward peoples. These we
could not persuade; and as they were by now highly specialized for war,
they were a very serious menace. They regarded the new spirit of peace
as mere weakness on the part of the enemy, and they were determined to
take advantage of it, and to conquer the rest of that world. But now we
witnessed a drama which to terrestrial man must surely seem incredible.
It was possible in this world only because of the high degree of mental
lucidity which had already been attained within the bounds of each race.
The pacific races had the courage to disarm. In the most spectacular and
unmistakable manner they destroyed their weapons and their munition
factories. They took care, too, that these events should be witnessed by
enemy-swarms that had been taken prisoner. These captives they then
freed, bidding them report their experiences to the enemy. In reply the
enemy invaded the nearest of the disarmed countries and set about
ruthlessly imposing the military culture upon it, by means of propaganda
and persecution. But in spite of mass executions and mass torture, the
upshot was not what was expected. For though the tyrant races were not
appreciably more developed in sociality than Homo sapiens, the victims
were far superior. Repression only strengthened the will for passive
resistance. Little by little the tyranny began to waver. Then suddenly
it collapsed. The invaders withdrew, taking with them the infection of
pacifism. In a surprisingly short time that world became a federation,
whose members were distinct species.

With sadness I realized that on the Earth, though all civilized beings
belong to one and the same biological species, such a happy issue of
strife is impossible, simply because the capacity for community in the
individual mind is still too weak. I wondered, too, whether the tyrant
races of insectoids would have had greater success in imposing their
culture on the invaded country if there had been a distinct generation
of juvenile malleable swarms for them to educate.

When this insectoid world had passed through its crisis, it began to
advance so rapidly in social structure and in development of the
individual mind that we found increasing difficulty in maintaining
contact. At last we lost touch. But later, when we ourselves had
advanced, we were to come upon this world again.

Of the other insectoid worlds, I shall say nothing, for not one of them
was destined to play an important part in the history of the galaxy.

To complete the picture of the races in which the individual mind had
not a single, physically continuous, body, I must refer to a very
different and even stranger kind. In this the individual body is a cloud
of ultramicroscopic sub-vital units, organized in a common radio-system.
Of this kind is the race which now inhabits our own planet Mars. As I
have already in another book described these beings and the tragic
relations which they will have with our own descendants in the remote
future, I shall say no more of them here; save that we did not make
contact with them till a much later stage of our adventure, when we had
acquired the skill to reach out to beings alien to ourselves in
spiritual condition.

3. PLANT MEN AND OTHERS

Before passing on to tell the story of our galaxy as a whole (so far as
I can comprehend it) I must mention another and a very alien kind of
world. Of this type we found few examples, and few of these survived
into the time when the galactic drama was at its height; but one at
least had (or will have) a great influence on the growth of the spirit
in that dramatic era.

On certain small planets, drenched with light and heat from a near or a
great sun, evolution took a very different course from that with which
we are familiar. The vegetable and animal functions were not separated
into distinct organic types. Every organism was at once animal and
vegetable.

In such worlds the higher organisms were something like gigantic and
mobile herbs; but the violent flood of solar radiation rendered the
tempo of their life much more rapid than that of our plants. To say that
they looked like herbs is perhaps misleading, for they looked equally
like animals. They had a definite number of limbs and a definite form of
body; but all their skin was green, or streaked with green, and they
bore here or there, according to their species, great masses of foliage.
Owing to the slight power of gravitation on these small planets, the
plant-animals often supported vast super-structures on very slender
trunks or limbs. In general those that were mobile were less generously
equipped with leaves than those that were more or less sedentary.

In these small hot worlds the turbulent circulation of water and
atmosphere caused rapid changes in the condition of the ground from day
to day. Storm and flood made it very desirable for the organisms of
these worlds to be able to move from place to place. Consequently the
early plants, which owing to the wealth of solar radiation could easily
store themselves with energy for a life of moderate muscular activity,
developed powers of perception and locomotion. Vegetable eyes and ears,
vegetable organs of taste, scent and touch, appeared on their stems or
foliage. For locomotion, some of them simply withdrew their primitive
roots from the ground and crept hither and thither with a kind of
caterpillar action. Some spread their foliage and drifted on the wind.
From these in the course of ages arose true fliers. Meanwhile the
pedestrian species turned some of their roots into muscular legs, four
or six, or centipedal. The remaining roots were equipped with boring
instruments, which on a new site could rapidly proliferate into the
ground. Yet another method of combining locomotion and roots was perhaps
more remarkable. The aerial portion of the organism would detach itself
from its embedded roots, and wander off by land or air to strike root
afresh in virgin soil. When the second site was exhausted the creature
would either go off in search of a third, and so on, or return to its
original bed, which by now might have recovered fertility. There, it
would attach itself once more to its old dormant roots and wake them
into new activity.

Many species, of course, developed predatory habits, and special organs
of offense, such as muscular boughs as strong as pythons for
constriction, or talons, horns, and formidable serrated pincers. In
these "carnivorous" creatures the spread of foliage was greatly reduced,
and all the leaves could be tucked snugly away along the back. In the
most specialized beasts of prey the foliage was atrophied and had only
decorative value. It was surprising to see how the environment imposed
on these alien creatures forms suggestive of our tigers and wolves. And
it was interesting, too, to note how excessive specialization and
excessive adaptation to offense or defense ruined species after species;
and how, when at length "human" intelligence appeared, it was achieved
by an unimposing and inoffensive creature whose sole gifts were
intelligence and sensibility toward the material world and toward its
fellows. Before describing the efflorescence of "humanity" in this kind
of world I must mention one grave problem which faces the evolving life
of all small planets, often at an early stage. This problem we had
already come across on the Other Earth. Owing to the weakness of
gravitation and the disturbing heat of the sun, the molecules of the
atmosphere very easily escape into space. Most small worlds, of course,
lose all their air and water long before life can reach the "human"
stage, sometimes even before it can establish itself at all. Others,
less small, may be thoroughly equipped with atmosphere in their early
phases, but at a much later date, owing to the slow but steady
contraction of their orbits, they may become so heated that they can no
longer hold down the furiously agitated molecules of their atmosphere.
On some of these planets a great population of living forms develops in
early aeons only to be parched and suffocated out of existence through
the long-drawn-out denudation and desiccation of the planet. But in more
favorable cases life is able to adapt itself progressively to the
increasingly severe conditions. In some worlds, for instance, a
biological mechanism appeared by which the remaining atmosphere was
imprisoned within a powerful electromagnetic field generated by the
world's living population. In others the need of atmosphere was done
away with altogether; photosynthesis and the whole metabolism of life
were carried on by means of liquids alone. The last dwindling gases were
captured in solution, stored in huge tracts of spongy growths among the
crowded roots, and covered with an impervious membrane.

Both these natural biological methods occurred in one or other of the
plant-animal worlds that reached the "human" level. I have space only to
describe a single example, the most significant of these remarkable
worlds. This was one in which all free atmosphere had been lost long
before the appearance of intelligence.

To enter this world and experience it through the alien senses and alien
temperament of its natives was an adventure in some ways more
bewildering than any of our earlier explorations. Owing to the complete
absence of atmosphere, the sky, even in full sunlight, was black with
the blackness of interstellar space; and the stars blazed. Owing to the
weakness of gravitation and the absence of the molding action of air and
water and frost on the planet's shrinking and wrinkled surface, the
landscape was a mass of fold-mountains, primeval and extinct volcanoes,
congealed floods and humps of lava, and craters left by the impact of
giant meteors. None of these features had ever been much smoothed by
atmospheric and glacial influences. Further, the ever-changing stresses
of the planet's crust had shattered many of the mountains into the
fantastic forms of ice-bergs. On our own earth, where gravity, that
tireless hound, pulls down its quarry with so much greater strength,
these slender, top-heavy crags and pinnacles could never have stood.
Owing to the absence of atmosphere the exposed surfaces of the rock were
blindingly illuminated; the crevasses and all the shadows were black as
night.

Many of the valleys had been turned into reservoirs, seemingly of milk;
for the surfaces of these lakes were covered with a deep layer of a
white glutinous substance, to prevent loss by evaporation. Round about
clustered the roots of the strange people of this world, like
tree-stumps where a forest has been felled and cleared. Each stump was
sealed with the white glue. Every stretch of soil was in use; and we
learned that, though some of this soil was the natural result of past
ages of action by air and water, most was artificial. It had been
manufactured by great mining and pulverizing processes. In primitive
times, and indeed throughout all "pre-human" evolution, the competitive
struggle for a share of the rare soil of this world of rock had been one
of the main spurs to intelligence.

The mobile plant men themselves were to be seen by day clustered in the
valleys, their foliage spread to the sun. Only by night did we observe
them in action, moving over the bare rock or busy with machines and
other artificial objects, instruments of their civilization. There were
no buildings, no roofed weatherproof enclosures; for there was no
weather. But the plateaux and terraces of the rock were crowded with all
manner of artifacts unintelligible to us.

The typical plant man was an erect organism, like ourselves. On his head
he bore a vast crest of green plumes, which could be either folded
together in the form of a huge, tight, cos lettuce, or spread out to
catch the light. Three many-faceted eyes looked out from under the
crest. Beneath these were three arm-like manipulatory limbs, green and
serpentine, branching at their extremities. The slender trunk, pliable,
encased in hard rings which slid into one another as the body bowed, was
divided into three legs for locomotion. Two of the three feet were also
mouths, which could either draw sap from the root or devour foreign
matter. The third was an organ of excretion. The precious excrement was
never wasted, but passed through a special junction between the third
foot and the root. The feet contained taste-organs, and also ears. Since
there was no air, sound was not propagated above ground.

By day the life of these strange beings was mainly vegetable, by night
animal. Every morning, after the long and frigid night, the whole
population swarmed to its rooty dormitories. Each individual sought out
his own root, fixed himself to it, and stood throughout the torrid day,
with leaves outspread. Till sunset he slept, not in a dreamless sleep,
but in a sort of trance, the meditative and mystical quality of which
was to prove in future ages a well of peace for many worlds. While he
slept, the currents of sap hastened up and down his trunk, carrying
chemicals between roots and leaves, flooding him with a concentrated
supply of oxygen, removing the products of past katabolism. When the sun
had disappeared once more behind the crags, displaying for a moment a
wisp of fiery prominences, he would wake, fold up his leaves, close the
passages to his roots, detach himself, and go about the business of
civilized life. Night in this world was brighter than moonlight with us,
for the stars were unobscured, and several great clusters hung in the
night sky. Artificial light, however, was used for delicate operations.
Its chief disadvantage was that it tended to send the worker to sleep.

I must not try even to sketch the rich and alien social life of these
beings. I will only say that here as elsewhere we found all the cultural
themes known on earth, but that in this world of mobile plants all was
transposed into a strange key, a perplexing mode. Here as elsewhere we
found a population of individuals deeply concerned with the task of
keeping themselves and their society in being. Here we found
self-regard, hate, love, the passions of the mob, intellectual
curiosity, and so on. And here, as in all the other worlds that we had
thus far visited, we found a race in the throes of the great spiritual
crisis which was the crisis familiar to us in our own worlds, and formed
the channel by which we had telepathic access to other worlds. But here
the crisis had assumed a style different from any that we had yet
encountered. We had, in fact, begun to extend our powers of imaginative
exploration.

Leaving all else unnoticed, I must try to describe this crisis, for it
is significant for the understanding of matters which reached far beyond
this little world.

We did not begin to have insight into the drama of this race till we had
learned to appreciate the mental aspect of its dual, animal-vegetable
nature. Briefly, the mentality of the plant men in every age was an
expression of the varying tension between the two sides of their nature,
between the active, assertive, objectively inquisitive, and morally
positive animal nature and the passive, subjectively contemplative, and
devoutly acquiescent vegetable nature. It was of course through animal
prowess and practical human intelligence that the species had long ago
come to dominate its world. But at all times this practical will had
been tempered and enriched by a kind of experience which among men is
very rare. Every day, throughout the ages, these beings had surrendered
their feverish animal nature not merely to unconscious or dream-racked
sleep, such as animals know, but to the special kind of awareness which
(we learned) belongs to plants. Spreading their leaves, they had
absorbed directly the essential elixir of life which animals receive
only at second hand in the mangled flesh of their prey. Thus they
seemingly maintained immediate physical contact with the source of all
cosmical being. And this state, though physical, was also in some sense
spiritual. It had a far-reaching effect on all their conduct. If
theological language were acceptable, it might well be called a
spiritual contact with God. During the busy night-time they went about
their affairs as insulated individuals, having no present immediate
experience of their underlying unity; but normally they were always
preserved from the worst excesses of individualism by memory of their
day-time life.

It took us long to understand that their peculiar day-time state did not
consist simply in being united as a group mind, whether of tribe or
race. Theirs was not the condition of the avian units in the bird-cloud,
nor yet of the telepathically constituted world-minds which, as we were
later to discover, had a very great part to play in galactic history.
The plant man did not in his daytime life come into possession of the
precepts and thoughts of his fellow plant men, and thereby waken into a
more comprehensive and discriminate awareness of the environment and of
the multiple body of the race. On the contrary, he became completely
unresponsive to all objective conditions save the flood of sunlight
drenching his spread leaves. And this experience afforded him an
enduring ecstasy whose quality was almost sexual, an ecstasy in which
subject and object seemed to become identical, an ecstasy of subjective
union with the obscure source of all finite being. In this state the
plant man could meditate upon his active, night-time life, and could
become aware, far more clearly than by night, of the intricacies of his
own motives. In this day-time mode he passed no moral judgments on
himself or others. He mentally reviewed every kind of human conduct with
detached contemplative joy, as a factor in the universe. But when night
came again, bringing the active nocturnal mood, the calm, day-time
insight into himself and others was lit with a fire of moral praise and
censure.

Now throughout the career of this race there had been a certain tension
between the two basic impulses of its nature. All its finest cultural
achievements had been made in times when both had been vigorous and
neither predominant. But, as in so many other worlds, the development of
natural science and the production of mechanical power from tropical
sunlight caused grave mental confusion. The manufacture of innumerable
aids to comfort and luxury, the spread of electric railways over the
whole world, the development of radio communication, the study of
astronomy and mechanistic biochemistry, the urgent demands of war and
social revolution, all these influences strengthened the active
mentality and weakened the contemplative. The climax came when it was
found possible to do away with the day-time sleep altogether. The
products of artificial photosynthesis could be rapidly injected into the
living body every morning, so that the plant man could spend practically
the whole day in active work. Very soon the roots of the peoples were
being dug up and used as raw material in manufacture. They were no
longer needed for their natural purpose.

I must not spend time in describing the hideous plight into which this
world now fell. Seemingly, artificial photosynthesis, though it could
keep the body vigorous, failed to produce some essential vitamin of the
spirit. A disease of robotism, of purely mechanical living, spread
throughout the population. There was of course a fever of industrial
activity. The plant men careered round their planet in all kinds of
mechanically propelled vehicles, decorated themselves with the latest
synthetic products, tapped the central volcanic heat for power, expended
great ingenuity in destroying one another, and in a thousand other
feverish pursuits pushed on in search of a bliss which ever eluded them.

After untold distresses they began to realize that their whole way of
life was alien to their essential plant nature. Leaders and prophets
dared to inveigh against mechanization and against the prevalent
intellectualistic scientific culture, and against artificial
photosynthesis. By now nearly all the roots of the race had been
destroyed; but presently biological science was turned to the task of
generating, from the few remaining specimens, new roots for all. Little
by little the whole population was able to return to natural
photosynthesis. The industrial life of the world vanished like frost in
sunlight. In returning to the old alternating life of animal and
vegetable, the plant men, jaded and deranged by the long fever of
industrialism, found in their calm day-time experience an overwhelming
joy. The misery of their recent life intensified by contrast the ecstasy
of the vegetal experience. The intellectual acuity that their brightest
minds had acquired in scientific analysis combined with the special
quality of their revived plant life to give their whole experience a new
lucidity. For a brief period they reached a plane of spiritual lucidity
which was to be an example and a treasure for the future aeons of the
galaxy.

But even the most spiritual life has its temptations. The extravagant
fever of industrialism and intellectualism had so subtly poisoned the
plant men that when at last they rebelled against it they swung too far,
falling into the snare of a vegetal life as one-sided as the old animal
life had been. Little by little they gave less and less energy and time
to "animal" pursuits, until at last their nights as well as their days
were spent wholly as trees, and the active, exploring, manipulating,
animal intelligence died in them forever.

For a while the race lived on in an increasingly vague and confused
ecstacy of passive union with the universal source of being. So well
established and automatic was the age-old biological mechanism for
preserving the planet's vital gases in solution that it continued long
to function without attention. But industrialism had increased the world
population beyond the limits within which the small supply of water and
gases could easily fulfil its function. The circulation of material was
dangerously rapid. In time the mechanism was overstrained. Leakages
began to appear, and no one repaired them. Little by little the precious
water and other volatile substances escaped from the planet. Little by
little the reservoirs ran dry, the spongy roots were parched, the leaves
withered. One by one the blissful and no longer human inhabitants of
that world passed from ecstasy to sickness, despondency, uncomprehending
bewilderment, and on to death.

But, as I shall tell, their achievement was not without effect on the
life of our galaxy. "Vegetable humanities," if I may so call them,
proved to be rather uncommon occurrences. Some of them inhabited worlds
of a very curious kind which I have not yet mentioned. As is well known,
a small planet close to its sun tends, through the sun's tidal action
upon it, to lose its rotation. Its days become longer and longer, till
at last it presents one face constantly toward its luminary. Not a few
planets of this type, up and down the galaxy, were inhabited; and
several of them by "vegetable humanities."

All these "non-diurnal" worlds were very inhospitable to life, for one
hemisphere was always extravagantly hot, the other extravagantly cold.
The illuminated face might reach the temperature of molten lead; on the
dark face, however, no substances could retain the liquid state, for the
temperature would remain but a degree or two above absolute zero.
Between the two hemispheres there would lie a narrow belt, or rather a
mere ribbon, which might be called temperate. Here the immense and
incendiary sun was always partly hidden by the horizon. Along the cooler
side of this ribbon, hidden from the murderous rays of the sun's actual
disc, but illuminated by his corona, and warmed by the conduction of
heat from the sunward ground, life was not invariably impossible.

Inhabited worlds of this kind had always reached a fairly high stage of
biological evolution long before they had lost their diurnal rotation.
As the day lengthened, life was forced to adapt itself to more extreme
temperatures of day and night. The poles of these planets, if not too
much inclined toward the ecliptic, remained at a fairly constant
temperature, and were therefore citadels whence the living forms
ventured into less hospitable regions. Many species managed to spread
toward the equator by the simple method of burying themselves and
"hibernating" through the day and the night, emerging only for dawn and
sunset to lead a furiously active life. As the days lengthened into
months, some species, adapted for swift locomotion, simply trekked round
the planet, following the sunset and the dawn. Strange it was to see the
equatorial and most agile of these species sweeping over the plains in
the level sunlight. Their legs were often as tall and slender as a
ship's masts. Now and then they would swerve, with long necks extended
to snatch some scurrying creature or pluck some bunch of foliage. Such
constant and rapid migration would have been impossible in worlds less
rich in solar energy.

Human intelligence seems never to have been attained in any of these
worlds unless it had been attained already before night and day became
excessively long, and the difference of their temperatures excessively
great. In worlds where plant men or other creatures had achieved
civilization and science before rotation had become seriously retarded,
great efforts were made to cope with the increasing harshness of the
environment. Sometimes civilization merely retreated to the poles,
abandoning the rest of the planet. Sometimes subterranean settlements
were established in other regions, the inhabitants issuing only at dawn
and sunset to cultivate the land. Sometimes a system of railways along
the parallels of latitude carried a migratory population from one
agricultural center to another, following the twilight.

Finally, however, when rotation had been entirely lost, a settled
civilization would be crowded along the whole length of the stationary
girdle between night and day. By this time, if not before, the
atmosphere would have been lost also. It can well be imagined that a
race struggling to survive in these literally straightened circumstances
would not be able to maintain any richness and delicacy of mental life.



CHAPTER VIII

CONCERNING THE EXPLORERS

BVALLTU and I, in company with the increasing band of our fellow
explorers, visited many worlds of many strange kinds. In some we spent
only a few weeks of the local time; in others we remained for centuries,
or skimmed from point to point of history as our interest dictated. Like
a swarm of locusts we would descend upon a new-found world, each of us
singling out a suitable host. After a period of observation, long or
short, we would leave, to alight again, perhaps, on the same world in
another of its ages; or to distribute our company among many worlds, far
apart in time and in space.

This strange life turned me into a very different being from the
Englishman who had at a certain date of human history walked at night
upon a hill. Not only had my own immediate experience increased far
beyond the normal age, but also, by means of a peculiarly intimate union
with my fellows, I myself had been, so to speak, multiplied. For in a
sense I was now as much Bvalltu and each one of my colleagues as I was
that Englishman.

This change that had come over us deserves to be carefully described,
not merely for its intrinsic interest, but also because it afforded us a
key for understanding many cosmical beings whose nature would otherwise
have been obscure to us.

In our new condition our community was so perfected that the experiences
of each were available to all. Thus I, the new I, participated in the
adventures of that Englishman and of Bvalltu and the rest with equal
ease. And I possessed all their memories of former, separate existence
in their respective native worlds.

Some philosophically minded reader may ask, "Do you mean that the many
experiencing individuals became a single individual, having a single
stream of experience? Or do you mean that there remained many
experiencing individuals, having numerically distinct but exactly
similar experiences?" The answer is that I do not know. But this I know.
I, the Englishman, and similarly each of my colleagues, gradually "woke"
into possession of each other's experience, and also into more lucid
intelligence. Whether, as experients, we remained many or became one, I
do not know. But I suspect that the question is one of those which can
never be truly answered because in the last analysis it is meaningless.


In the course of my communal observation of the many worlds, and equally
in the course of my introspection of my own communal mental processes,
now one and now another individual explorer, and now perhaps a group of
explorers, would form the main instrument of attention, affording
through their particular nature and experience material for the
contemplation of all. Sometimes, when we were exceptionally alert and
eager, each awakened into a mode of perception and thought and
imagination and will more lucid than any experiencing known to any of us
as individuals. Thus, though each of us became in a sense identical with
each of his friends, he also became in a manner a mind of higher order
than any of us in isolation. But in this "waking" there seemed to be
nothing more mysterious in kind than in those many occasions in normal
life when the mind delightedly relates together experiences that have
hitherto been insulated from one another, or discovers in confused
objects a pattern or a significance hitherto unnoticed.

It must not be supposed that this strange mental community blotted out
the personalities of the individual explorers. Human speech has no
accurate terms to describe our peculiar relationship. It would be as
untrue to say that we had lost our individuality, or were dissolved in a
communal individuality, as to say that we were all the while distinct
individuals. Though the pronoun "I" now applied to us all collectively,
the pronoun "we" also applied to us. In one respect, namely unity of
consciousness, we were indeed a single experiencing individual; yet at
the same time we were in a very important and delightful manner distinct
from one another. Though there was only the single, communal "I," there
was also, so to speak, a manifold and variegated "us," an observed
company of very diverse personalities, each of whom expressed
creatively his own unique contribution to the whole enterprise of
cosmical exploration, while all were bound together in a tissue of
subtle personal relationships. I am well aware that this account of the
matter must seem to my readers self-contradictory, as indeed it does to
me. But I can find no other way of expressing the vividly remembered
fact that I was at once a particular member of a community and the
possessor of the pooled experience of that community.

To put the matter somewhat differently, though in respect of our
identity of awareness we were a single individual, in respect of our
diverse and creative idiosyncrasies we were distinct persons observable
by the common "I." Each one, as the common "I," experienced the whole
company of individuals, including his individual self, as a group of
actual persons, differing in temperament and private experience. Each
one of us experienced all as a real community, bound together by such
relations of affection and mutual criticism as occurred, for instance,
between Bvalltu and myself. Yet on another plane of experience, the
plane of creative thought and imagination, the single communal attention
could withdraw from this tissue of personal relationships. Instead, it
concerned itself wholly with the exploration of the cosmos. With partial
truth it might be said that, while for love we were distinct, for
knowledge, for wisdom, and for worship we were identical. In the
following chapters, which deal with the cosmical, experiences of this
communal "I," it would be logically correct to refer to the exploring
mind always in the singular, using the pronoun "I," and saying simply,
"I did so and so, and thought so and so"; nevertheless the pronoun "we"
will still be generally employed so as to preserve the true impression
of a communal enterprise, and to avoid the false impression that the
explorer was just the human author of this book.

Each one of us had lived his individual active life in one or other of
the many worlds. And for each one, individually, his own little
blundering career in his remote native world retained a peculiar
concreteness and glamour, like the vividness which mature men find in
childhood memories. Not only so, but individually he imputed to his
former private life an urgency and importance which, in his communal
capacity, was overwhelmed by matters of greater cosmical significance.
Now this concreteness and glamour, this urgency and importance of each
little private life, was of great moment to the communal "I" in which
each of us participated. It irradiated the communal experience with its
vividness, its pathos. For only in his own life as a native in some
world had each of us actually fought, so to speak, in life's war as a
private soldier at close grips with the enemy. It was the recollection
of this fettered, imprisoned, blindfold, eager, private individuality,
that enabled us to watch the unfolding of cosmical events not merely as
a spectacle but with a sense of the poignancy of every individual life
as it flashed and vanished. Thus I, the Englishman, contributed to the
communal mind my persistently vivid recollections of all my ineffectual
conduct in my own troubled world; and the true significance of that
blind human life, redeemed by its little imperfect jewel of community,
became apparent to me, the communal "I," with a lucidity which the
Englishman in his primaeval stupor could never attain and cannot now
recapture. All that I can now remember is that, as the communal "I," I
looked on my terrestrial career at once more critically and with less
guilt than I do in the individual state; and on my partner in that
career at once with clearer, colder understanding of our mutual impact
and with more generous affection.

One aspect of the communal experience of the explorers I have still to
mention. Each of us had originally set out upon the great adventure
mainly in the hope of discovering what part was played by community in
the cosmos as a whole. This question had yet to be answered; but
meanwhile another question was becoming increasingly insistent. Our
crowded experiences in the many worlds, and our new lucidity of mind,
had bred in each of us a sharp conflict of intellect and feeling.
Intellectually the idea that some "deity," distinct from the cosmos
itself, had made the cosmos now seemed to us less and less credible.
Intellectually we had no doubt that the cosmos was self-sufficient, a
system involving no logical ground and no creator. Yet increasingly, as
a man may feel the psychical reality of a physically perceived beloved
or a perceived enemy, we felt in the physical presence of the cosmos the
psychical presence of that which we had named the Star Maker. In spite
of intellect, we knew that the whole cosmos was infinitely less than the
whole of being, and that the whole infinity of being underlay every
moment of the cosmos. And with unreasoning passion we strove constantly
to peer behind each minute particular event in the cosmos to see the
very features of that infinity which, for lack of a truer name, we had
called the Star Maker. But, peer as we might, we found nothing. Though
in the whole and in each particular thing the dread presence
indubitably confronted us, its very infinity prevented us from assigning
to it any features whatever.

Sometimes we inclined to conceive it as sheer Power, and symbolized it
to ourselves by means of all the myriad power-deities of our many
worlds. Sometimes we felt assured that it was pure Reason, and that the
cosmos was but an exercise of the divine mathematician. Sometimes Love
seemed to us its essential character, and we imagined it with the forms
of all the Christs of all the worlds, the human Christs, the Echinoderm
and Nautiloid Christs, the dual Christ of the Symbiotics, the swarming
Christ of the Insectoids. But equally it appeared to us as unreasoning
Creativity, at once blind and subtle, tender and cruel, caring only to
spawn and spawn the infinite variety of beings, conceiving here and
there among a thousand inanities a fragile loveliness. This it might for
a while foster with maternal solicitude, till in a sudden jealousy of
the excellence of its own creature, it would destroy what it had made.

But we knew well that all these fictions were very false. The felt
presence of the Star Maker remained unintelligible, even though it
increasingly illuminated the cosmos, like the splendor of the unseen sun
at dawn.



CHAPTER IX

THE COMMUNITY OF WORLDS

I. BUSY UTOPIAS

THERE came a time when our new-found communal mind attained such a
degree of lucidity that it was able to maintain contact even with worlds
that had passed far beyond the mentality of terrestrial man. Of these
lofty experiences I, who am once more reduced to the state of a mere
individual human being, have only the most confused memory. I am like
one who, in the last extremity of mental fatigue, tries to recapture the
more penetrating intuitions that he achieved in his lost freshness. He
can recover only faint echoes and a vague glamour. But even the most
fragmentary recollections of the cosmical experiences which befell me in
that lucidstate deserve recording.

The sequence of events in the successfully waking world was generally
more or less as follows. The starting point, it will be remembered, was
a plight like that in which our own Earth now stands. The dialectic of
the world's history had confronted the race with a problem with which
the traditional mentality could never cope. The world-situation had
grown too complex for lowly intelligences, and it demanded a degree of
individual integrity in leaders and in led, such as was as yet possible
only to a few minds. Consciousness had already been violently awakened
out of the primitive trance into a state of excruciating individualism,
of poignant but pitifully restricted self-awareness. And individualism,
together with the traditional tribal spirit, now threatened to wreck the
world. Only after a long-drawn agony of economic distress and maniac
warfare, haunted by an increasingly clear vision of a happier world,
could the second stage of waking be achieved. In most cases it was not
achieved. "Human nature," or its equivalent in the many worlds, could
not change itself; and the environment could not remake it.

But in a few worlds the spirit reacted to its desperate plight with a
miracle. Or, if the reader prefers, the environment miraculously
refashioned the spirit. There occurred a widespread and almost sudden
waking into a new lucidity of consciousness and a new integrity of will.
To call this change miraculous is only to recognize that it could not
have been scientifically predicted even from the fullest possible
knowledge of "human nature" as manifested in the earlier age. To later
generations, however, it appeared as no miracle but as a belated
wakening from an almost miraculous stupor into plain sanity.

This unprecedented access of sanity took at first the form of a
wide-spread passion for a new social order which should be just and
should embrace the whole planet. Such a social fervor was not, of
course, entirely new. A small minority had long ago conceived it, and
had haltingly tried to devote themselves to it. But now at last, through
the scourge of circumstance and the potency of the spirit itself, this
social will became general. And while it was still passionate, and
heroic action was still possible to the precariously awakened beings,
the whole social structure of the world was reorganized, so that within
a generation or two every individual on the planet could count upon the
means of life, and the opportunity to exercise his powers fully, for his
own delight and for the service of the world community. It was now
possible to bring up the new generations to a sense that the world-order
was no alien tyranny but an expression of the general will, and that
they had indeed been born into a noble heritage, a thing for which it
was good to live and suffer and die. To readers of this book such a
change may well seem miraculous, and such a state Utopian.

Those of us who had come from less fortunate planets found it at once a
heartening and yet a bitter experience to watch world after world
successfully emerge from a plight which seemed inescapable, to see a
world-population of frustrated and hate-poisoned creatures give place to
one in which every individual was generously and shrewdly nurtured, and
therefore not warped by unconscious envy and hate. Very soon, though no
change had occurred in the biological stock, the new social environment
produced a world population which might well have seemed to belong to a
new species. In physique, in intelligence, in mental independence and
social responsibility, the new individual far outstripped the old, as
also in mental wholesomeness and in integrity of will. And though it was
sometimes feared that the removal of all sources of grave mental
conflict might deprive the mind of all stimulus to creative work, and
produce a mediocre population, it was soon found that, far from
stagnating, the spirit of the race now passed on to discover new fields
of struggle and triumph. The world-population of "aristocrats," which
flourished after the great change, looked back with curiosity and
incredulity into the preceding age, and found great difficulty in
conceiving the tangled, disreputable and mostly unwitting motives which
were the main-springs of action even in the most fortunate individuals
among their ancestors. It was recognized that the whole
pre-revolutionary population was afflicted with serious mental diseases,
with endemic plagues of delusion and obsession, due to mental
malnutrition and poisoning. As psychological insight advanced, the same
kind of interest was aroused by the old psychology as is wakened in
modern Europeans by ancient maps which distort the countries of the
world almost beyond recognition. We were inclined to think of the
psychological crisis of the waking worlds as being the difficult passage
from adolescence to maturity; for in essence it was an outgrowing of
juvenile interests, a discarding of toys and childish games, and a
discovery of the interests of adult life. Tribal prestige, individual
dominance, military glory, industrial triumphs lost their obsessive
glamour, and instead the happy creatures delighted in civilized social
intercourse, in cultural activities, and in the common enterprise of
world-building. During the phase of history which followed the actual
surmounting of the spiritual crisis in a waking world the attention of
the race was of course still chiefly occupied with social
reconstruction. Many heroic tasks had to be undertaken. There was need
not only for a new economic system but for new systems of political
organization, of world-law, of education. In many cases this period of
reconstruction under the guidance of the new mentality was itself a time
of serious conflict. For even beings who are sincerely in accord about
the goal of social activity may disagree violently about the way. But
such conflicts as arose, though heated, were of a very different kind
from the earlier conflicts which were inspired by obsessive
individualism and obsessive group-hatreds.

We noted that the new world-orders were very diverse. This was, of
course, to be expected, since biologically, psychologically, culturally,
these worlds were very different. The perfected world-order of an
Echinoderm race had of course to be different from that of the symbiotic
Ichthyoids and Arachnoids; and this from that of a Nautiloid world, and
so on. But we noted also in all these victorious worlds a remarkable
identity. For instance, in the loosest possible sense, all were
communistic; for in all of them the means of production were communally
owned, and no individual could control the labor of others for private
profit. Again, in a sense all these world-orders were democratic, since
the final sanction of policy was world-opinion. But in many cases there
was no democratic machinery, no legal channel for the expression of
world-opinion. Instead, a highly specialized bureaucracy, or even a
world-dictator, might carry out the business of organizing the world's
activity with legally absolute power, but under constant supervision by
popular will expressed through the radio. We were amazed to find that in
a truly awakened world even a dictatorship could be in essence
democratic. We observed with incredulity situations in which the
"absolute" world-government, faced with some exceptionally momentous and
doubtful matter of policy, had made urgent appeals for a formal
democratic decision, only to receive from all regions the reply, "We
cannot advise. You must decide as your professional experience suggests.
We will abide by your decision."

Law in these worlds was based on a very remarkable kind of sanction
which could not conceivably work successfully on Earth. There was never
any attempt to enforce the law by violence, save against dangerous
lunatics, such as sometimes occurred as throw-backs to an earlier age.
In some worlds there was a complex body of "laws" regulating the
economic and social life of groups, and even the private affairs of
individuals. It seemed to us at first that freedom had vanished from
such worlds. But later we discovered that the whole intricate system was
regarded as we should regard the rules of a game or the canons of an
art, or the innumerable extra-legal customs of any long-established
society. In the main, everyone kept the law because he had faith in its
social value as a guide to conduct. But if ever the law seemed
inadequate he would without hesitation break it. His conduct might cause
offense or inconvenience or even serious hardship to his neighbors. They
would probably protest vigorously. But there was never question of
compulsion. If those concerned failed to persuade him that his behavior
was socially harmful, his case might be tried by a sort of court of
arbitration, backed by the prestige of the world-government. If the
decision went against the defendant, and yet he persisted in his illegal
behavior, none would restrain him. But such was the power of public
censure and social ostracism that disregard of the court's decision was
very rare. The terrible sense of isolation acted on the law-breaker like
an ordeal by fire. If his motive was at bottom base, he would sooner or
later collapse. But if his case had merely been misjudged, or if his
conduct sprang from an intuition of value beyond the range of his
fellows, he might persist in his course till he had won over the public.

I mention these social curiosities only to give some illustration of the
far-reaching difference between the spirit of these Utopian worlds and
the spirit which is familiar to readers of this book. It may be easily
imagined that in our wanderings we came upon a wonderful diversity of
customs and institutions, but I must not pause to describe even the most
remarkable of them. I must be content to outline the activities of the
typical waking worlds, so as to be able to press on to tell a story not
merely of particular worlds but of our galaxy as a whole. When a waking
world had passed through the phase of radical social reconstruction, and
had attained a new equilibrium, it would settle into a period of steady
economic and cultural advancement. Mechanism, formerly a tyrant over
body and mind, but now a faithful servant, would secure for every
individual a fullness and diversity of life far beyond anything known on
earth. Radio communication and rocket travel would afford to each mind
intimate knowledge of every people. Labor-saving machinery would reduce
the work of maintaining civilization; all mind-crippling drudgery would
vanish, and the best energy of every one of the world-citizens would be
freely devoted to social service that was not unworthy of a well-grown
intelligent being. And "social service" was apt to be interpreted very
broadly. It seemed to permit many lives to be given over wholly to
freakish and irresponsible self-expression. The community could well
afford a vast amount of such wastage for the sake of the few invaluable
jewels of originality which occasionally emerged from it.

This stable and prosperous phase of the waking worlds, which we came to
call the Utopian phase, was probably the happiest of all the ages in the
life of any world. Tragedy of one sort or another there would still be,
but never widespread and futile distress. We remarked, moreover, that,
whereas in former ages tragedy had been commonly thought of in terms of
physical pain and premature death, now it was conceived more readily as
resulting from the clash and mutual yearning and mutual incompatibility
of diverse personalities; so rare had the cruder kind of disaster
become, and on the other hand so much more subtle and sensitive were the
contacts between persons. Widespread physical tragedy, the suffering and
annihilation of whole populations, such as we experience in war and
plague, were quite unknown, save in those rare cases when a whole race
was destroyed by astronomical accident, whether through loss of
atmosphere or the bursting of its planet or the plunging of its solar
system into some tract of gas or dust.

In this happy phase, then, which might last for a few centuries or for
many thousands of years, the whole energy of the world would be devoted
to perfecting the world-community and raising the caliber of the race by
cultural and by eugenical means.

Of the eugenical enterprise of these worlds I shall report little,
because much of it would be unintelligible without a minute knowledge of
the biological and biochemical nature of each of these non-human
world-populations. It is enough to say that the first task of the
eugenists was to prevent the perpetuation of inheritable disease and
malformation of body and mind. In days before the great psychological
change even this modest work had often led to serious abuses.
Governments would attempt to breed out all those characters, such as
independence of mind, which were distasteful to governments. Ignorant
enthusiasts would advocate ruthless and misguided interference in the
choice of mates. But in the more enlightened age these dangers were
recognized and avoided. Even so, the eugenical venture did often lead to
disaster. One splendid race of intelligent avians we saw reduced to the
sub-human level by an attempt to extirpate susceptibility to a virulent
mental disease. The liability to this disease happened to be genetically
linked in an indirect manner with the possibility of normal brain
development in the fifth generation. Of positive eugenical enterprises I
need only mention improvements of sensory range and acuity (chiefly in
sight and touch), the invention of new senses, improvements in memory,
in general intelligence, in temporal discrimination. These races came to
distinguish ever more minute periods of duration, and at the same time
to extend their temporal grasp so as to apprehend ever longer periods as
"now."

Many of the worlds at first devoted much energy to this kind of
eugenical work, but later decided that, though it might afford them some
new richness of experience, it must be postponed for the sake of more
important matters. For instance, with the increasing complexity of life
it soon appeared very necessary to retard the maturing of the individual
mind, so as to enable it to assimilate its early experience' more
thoroughly. "Before life begins," it was said, "there should be a
lifetime of childhood." At the same time efforts were made to prolong
maturity to three or four times its normal extent, and to reduce
senility. In every world that had gained full eugenical power there
arose sooner or later a sharp public discussion as to the most suitable
length of individual life. All were agreed that life must be prolonged;
but, while one party wished to multiply it only three or four times,
another insisted that nothing less than a hundred times the normal
life-span could afford the race that continuity and depth of experience
which all saw to be desirable. Another party even advocated
deathlessness, and a permanent race of never-aging immortals. It was
argued that the obvious danger of mental rigidity, and the cessation of
all advancement, might be avoided by contriving that the permanent
physiological state of the deathless population should be one of very
early maturity.

Different worlds found different solutions for this problem. Some races
assigned to the individual a period no longer than three hundred of our
years. Others allowed him fifty thousand. One race of Echinoderms
decided on potential immortality, but endowed themselves with an
ingenious psychological mechanism by which, if the ancient began to lose
touch with changing conditions, he could not fail to recognize the fact,
and would thereupon crave and practice euthanasia, gladly yielding his
place to a successor of more modern type.

Many other triumphs of eugenical experiment we observed up and down the
worlds. The general level of individual intelligence was, of course,
raised far beyond the range of Homo sapiens. But also that
super-intelligence which can be attained only by a psychically unified
community was greatly developed on the highest practicable plane, that
of the conscious individuality of a whole world. This, of course, was
impossible till the social cohesion of individuals within the
world-community had become as close-knit as the integration of the
elements of a nervous system. It demanded also a very great advance of
telepathy. Further, it was not possible till the great majority of
individuals had reached a breadth of knowledge unknown on earth. The
last and most difficult power to be attained by these worlds in the
course of their Utopian phase was psychical freedom of time and space,
the limited power to observe directly, and even contribute to, events
remote from the spatio-temporal location of the observer. Throughout our
exploration we had been greatly perplexed by the fact that we, most of
whom were beings of a very humble order, should have been able to
achieve this freedom, which, as we now discovered, these highly
developed worlds found so difficult to master. The explanation was now
given us. No such venture as ours could have been undertaken by our
unaided selves. Throughout our exploration we had unwittingly been under
the influence of a system of worlds which had attained this freedom only
after aeons of research. Not one step could we have taken without the
constant support of those brilliant Ichthyoid and Arachnoid Symbiotics
who played a leading part in the history of our galaxy. They it was who
controlled our whole adventure, so that we might report our experiences
in our primitive native worlds.

The freedom of space and time, the power of cosmical exploration and of
influence by means of telepathic contact, was at once the most potent
and the most dangerous asset of the fully awakened Utopian worlds.
Through the unwise exercise of it many a glorious and single-minded race
came to disaster. Sometimes the adventuring world-mind failed to
maintain its sanity in face of the welter of misery and despair that now
flooded in upon it telepathically from all the regions of the galaxy.
Sometimes the sheer difficulty of comprehending the subtleties that were
revealed to it flung it into a mental breakdown from which there was no
recovery. Sometimes it became so enthralled by its telepathic adventures
that it lost touch with its own life upon its native planet, so that the
world-community, deprived of its guiding communal mind, fell into
disorder and decay, and the exploring mind itself died.

2. IN MUNDANE STRIFE

Of the busy Utopias which I have been describing, a few were already
established even before the birth of the Other Earth, a larger number
flourished before our own planet was formed, but many of the most
important of these worlds are temporally located in an age far future to
us, an age long after the destruction of the final human race.
Casualties among these awakened worlds are of course much less common
than among more lowly and less competent worlds. Consequently, though
fatal accidents occurred in every epoch, the number of awakened worlds
in our galaxy steadily increased as time advanced. The actual births of
planets, due to the chance encounters of mature but not aged stars,
reached (or will reach) a maximum fairly late in the history of our
galaxy, and then declined. But since the fluctuating progress of a world
from bare animality to spiritual maturity takes, on the average, several
thousands of millions of years, the maximum population of Utopian and
fully awakened worlds occurred very late, when physically the galaxy was
already somewhat past its prime. Further, though even in early epochs
the few awakened worlds did sometimes succeed in making contact with one
another, either by interstellar travel or by telepathy, it was not till
a fairly late stage of galactic history that intermundane relations came
to occupy the main attention of the wakened worlds.

Throughout the progress of a waking world there was one grave, subtle,
and easily overlooked danger. Interest might be "fixated" upon some
current plane of endeavor, so that no further advance could occur. It
may seem strange that beings whose psychological knowledge so far
surpassed the attainment of man should have been trapped in this manner.
Apparently at every stage of mental development, save the highest of
all, the mind's growing point is tender and easily misdirected. However
this may be, it is a fact that a few rather highly developed worlds,
even with communal mentality, were disastrously perverted in a strange
manner, which I find very difficult to understand. I can only suggest
that in them, seemingly, the hunger for true community and true mental
lucidity itself became obsessive and perverse, so that the behavior of
these exalted perverts might deteriorate into something very like
tribalism and religious fanaticism. The disease would soon lead to the
stifling of all elements which seemed recalcitrant to the generally
accepted culture of the world-society. When such worlds mastered
interstellar travel, they might conceive a fanatical desire to impose
their own culture throughout the galaxy. Sometimes their zeal became so
violent that they were actually driven to wage ruthless religious wars
on all who resisted them.

Obsessions derived from one stage or another of the progress toward
Utopia and lucid consciousness, even if they did not bring violent
disaster, might at any stage side-track the waking world into futility.
Superhuman intelligence, courage, and constancy on the part of the
devoted individuals might be consecrated to misguided and unworthy world
purposes. Thus it was that, in extreme cases, even a world that remained
socially Utopian and mentally a super-individual, might pass beyond the
bounds of sanity. With a gloriously healthy body and an insane mind, it
might do terrible harm to its neighbors.

Such tragedy did not become possible till after interplanetary and
interstellar travel had been well established. Long ago, in an early
phase of the galaxy, the number of planetary systems had been very
small, and only half a dozen worlds had attained Utopia. These were
scattered up and down the galaxy at immense distances from one another.
Each lived its life in almost complete isolation, relieved only by
precarious telepathic intercourse with its peers. In a somewhat later
but still early period, when these eldest children of the galaxy had
perfected their society and their biological nature, and were on the
threshold of super-individuality, they turned their attention to
interplanetary travel. First one and then another achieved rocket-flight
in space, and succeeded in breeding specialized populations for the
colonization of neighboring planets. In a still later epoch, the middle
period of galactic history, there were many more planetary systems than
in the earlier ages, and an increasing number of intelligent worlds were
successfully emerging from the great psychological crisis which so many
worlds never surmount. Meanwhile some of the elder "generation" of
awakened worlds were already facing the immensely difficult problems of
travel on the interstellar and not merely the interplanetary scale. This
new power inevitably changed the whole character of galactic history.
Hitherto, in spite of tentative telepathic exploration on the part of
the most awakened worlds, the life of the galaxy had been in the main
the life of a number of isolated worlds which took no effect upon one
another. With the advent of interstellar travel the many distinct themes
of the world-biographies gradually became merged in an all-embracing
drama.

Travel within a planetary system was at first carried out by
rocket-vessels propelled by normal fuels. In all the early ventures one
great difficulty had been the danger of collision with meteors. Even the
most efficient vessel, most skillfully navigated and traveling in
regions that were relatively free from these invisible and lethal
missiles, might at any moment crash and fuse. The trouble was not
overcome till means had been found to unlock the treasure of sub-atomic
energy. It was then possible to protect the ship by means of a far-flung
envelope of power which either diverted or exploded the meteors at a
distance. A rather similar method was with great difficulty devised to
protect the space ships and their crews from the constant and murderous
hail of cosmic radiation.

Interstellar, as opposed to interplanetary, travel was quite impossible
until the advent of sub-atomic power. Fortunately this source of power
was seldom gained until late in a world's development, when mentality
was mature enough to wield this most dangerous of all physical
instruments without inevitable disaster. Disasters, however, did occur.
Several worlds were accidentally blown to pieces. In others civilization
was temporarily destroyed. Sooner or later, however, most of the minded
worlds tamed this formidable djin, and set it to work upon a titanic
scale, not only in industry, but in such great enterprises as the
alteration of planetary orbits for the improvement of climate. This
dangerous and delicate process was effected by firing a gigantic
sub-atomic rocket-apparatus at such times and places that the recoil
would gradually accumulate to divert the planet's course in the desired
direction.

Actual interstellar voyaging was first effected by detaching a planet
from its natural orbit by a series of well-timed and well-placed rocket
impulsions, and thus projecting it into outer space at a speed far
greater than the normal planetary and stellar speeds. Something more
than this was necessary, since life on a sunless planet would have been
impossible. For short interstellar voyages the difficulty was sometimes
overcome by the generation of sub-atomic energy from the planet's own
substance; but for longer voyages, lasting for many thousands of years,
the only method was to form a small artificial sun, and project it into
space as a blazing satellite of the living world. For this purpose an
uninhabited planet would be brought into proximity with the home planet
to form a binary system. A mechanism would then be contrived for the
controlled disintegration of the atoms of the lifeless planet, to
provide a constant source of light and heat. The two bodies, revolving
round one another, would be launched among the stars.

This delicate operation may well seem impossible. Had I space to
describe the age-long experiments and world-wrecking accidents which
preceded its achievement, perhaps the reader's incredulity would vanish.
But I must dismiss in a few sentences whole protracted epics of
scientific adventure and personal courage. Suffice it that, before the
process was perfected, many a populous world was either cast adrift to
freeze in space, or was roasted by its own artificial sun.

The stars are so remote from one another that we measure their distances
in light-years. Had the voyaging worlds traveled only at speeds
comparable with those of the stars themselves, even the shortest of
interstellar voyages would have lasted for many millions of years. But
since interstellar space offers almost no resistance to a traveling
body, and therefore momentum is not lost, it was possible for the
voyaging world, by prolonging the original rocket-impulsion for many
years, to increase its speed far beyond that of the fastest star.
Indeed, though even the early voyages by heavy natural planets were by
our standards spectacular, I shall have to tell at a later stage of
voyages by small artificial planets traveling at almost half the speed
of light. Owing to certain "relativity effects" it was impossible to
accelerate beyond this point. But even such a rate of travel made
voyages to the nearer stars well worth undertaking if any other
planetary system happened to lie within this range. It must be
remembered that a fully awakened world had no need to think in terms of
such short periods as a human lifetime. Though its individuals might
die, the minded world was in a very important sense immortal.

It was accustomed to lay its plans to cover periods of many million
years.

In early epochs of the galaxy expeditions from star to star were
difficult, and rarely successful. But at a later stage, when there were
already many thousands of worlds inhabited by intelligent races, and
hundreds that had passed the Utopian stage, a very serious situation
arose. Interstellar travel was by now extremely efficient. Immense
exploration vessels many miles in diameter, were constructed out in
space from artificial materials of extreme rigidity and lightness. These
could be projected by rocket action and with cumulative acceleration
till their speed was almost half the speed of light. Even so, the
journey from end to end of the galaxy could not be completed under two
hundred thousand years. However, there was no reason to undertake so
long a voyage. Few voyages in search of suitable systems lasted for more
than a tenth of that time. Many were much shorter. Races that had
attained and secured a communal consciousness would not hesitate to send
out a number of such expeditions. Ultimately they might project their
planet itself across the ocean of space to settle in some remote system
recommended by the pioneers.

The problem of interstellar travel was so enthralling that it sometimes
became an obsession even to a fairly well-developed Utopian world. This
could only occur if in the constitution of that world there was
something unwholesome, some secret and unfulfilled hunger impelling the
beings. The race might then become travel-mad.

Its social organization would be refashioned and directed with Spartan
strictness to the new communal undertaking. All its members, hypnotized
by the common obsession, would gradually forget the life of intense
personal intercourse and of creative mental activity which had hitherto
been their chief concern. The whole venture of the spirit, exploring the
universe and its own nature with critical intelligence and delicate
sensibility, would gradually come to a standstill. The deepest roots of
emotion and will, which in the fully sane awakened world were securely
within the range of introspection, would become increasingly obscured.
Less and less, in such a world, could the unhappy communal mind
understand itself. More and more it pursued its phantom goal. Any
attempt to explore the galaxy telepathically was now abandoned. The
passion of physical exploration assumed the guise of a religion. The
communal mind persuaded itself that it must at all costs spread the
gospel of its own culture throughout the galaxy. Though culture itself
was vanishing, the vague idea of culture was cherished as a
justification of world-policy.

Here I must check myself, lest I give a false impression. It is
necessary to distinguish sharply between the mad worlds of comparatively
low mental development and those of almost the highest order. The
humbler kinds might become crudely obsessed by sheer mastery or sheer
travel, with its scope for courage and discipline. More tragic was the
case of those few very much more awakened worlds whose obsession was
seemingly for community itself and mental lucidity itself, and the
propagation of the kind of community and the special mode of lucidity
most admired by themselves. For them travel was but the means to
cultural and religious empire.

I have spoken as though I were confident that these formidable worlds
were indeed mad, aberrant from the line of mental and spiritual growth.
But their tragedy lay in the fact that, though to their opponents they
seemed to be either mad or at heart wicked, to themselves they appeared
superbly sane, practical, and virtuous. There were times when we
ourselves, the bewildered explorers, were almost persuaded that this was
the truth. Our intimate contact with them was such as to give us
insight, so to speak, into the inner sanity of their insanity, or the
core of rightness in their wickedness. This insanity or wickedness I
have to describe in terms of simple human craziness and vice; but in
truth it was in a sense superhuman, for it included the perversion of
faculties above the range of human sanity and virtue.

When one of these "mad" worlds encountered a sane world, it would
sincerely express the most reasonable and kindly intentions. It desired
only cultural intercourse, and perhaps economic cooperation. Little by
little it would earn the respect of the other for its sympathy, its
splendid social order, and its dynamic purpose. Each world would regard
the other as a noble, though perhaps an alien and partly
incomprehensible, instrument of the spirit. But little by little the
normal world would begin to realize that in the culture of the "mad"
world there were certain subtle and far-reaching intuitions that
appeared utterly false, ruthless, aggressive, and hostile to the spirit,
and were the dominant motives of its foreign relations. The "mad" world,
meanwhile, would regretfully come to the conclusion that the other was
after all gravely lacking in sensibility, that it was obtuse to the very
highest values and most heroic virtues, in fact that its whole life was
subtly corrupt, and must, for its own sake, be changed, or else
destroyed. Thus each world, though with lingering respect and affection,
would sadly condemn the other. But the mad world would not be content to
leave matters thus. It would at length with holy fervor attack, striving
to destroy the other's pernicious culture, and even exterminate its
population. It is easy for me now, after the event, after the final
spiritual downfall of these mad worlds, to condemn them as perverts, but
in the early stages of their drama we were often desperately at a loss
to decide on which side sanity lay.

Several of the mad worlds succumbed to their own fool-hardiness in
navigation. Others, under the strain of age-long research, fell into
social neurosis and civil strife. A few, however, succeeded in attaining
their end, and after voyages lasting for thousands of years were able to
reach some neighboring planetary system. The invaders were often in a
desperate plight. Generally they had used up most of the material of
their little artificial sun. Economy had forced them to reduce their
ration of heat and light so far that when at last they discovered a
suitable planetary system their native world was almost wholly arctic.
On arrival, they would first take up their position in a suitable orbit
and, perhaps spend some centuries in recuperating. Then they would
explore the neighboring worlds, seek out the most hospitable, and begin
to adapt themselves or their descendants to life upon it. If, as was
often the case, any of the planets was already inhabited by intelligent
beings, the invaders would inevitably come sooner or later into conflict
with them, either in a crude manner over the right to exploit a planet's
resources, or more probably over the invaders' obsession for propagating
their own culture. For by now the civilizing mission, which was the
ostensible motive of all their heroic adventures, would have become a
rigid obsession. They would be quite incapable of conceiving that the
native civilization, though less developed than their own, might be more
suited to the natives. Nor could they realize that their own culture,
formerly the expression of a gloriously awakened world, might have sunk,
in spite of their mechanical powers and crazy religious fervor, below
the simpler culture of the natives in all the essentials of mental life.

Many a desperate defense did we see, carried out by some world of the
lowly rank of Homo sapiens against a race of mad supermen, armed not
only with the invincible power of sub-atomic energy but with
overwhelmingly superior intelligence, knowledge, and devotion, and
moreover with the immense advantage that all its individuals
participated in the unified mind of the race. Though we had come to
cherish above all things the advancement of mentality, and were
therefore prejudiced in favor of the awakened though perverted invaders,
our sympathies soon became divided, and then passed almost wholly to the
natives, however barbaric their culture. For in spite of their
stupidity, their ignorance, and superstition, their endless internecine
conflicts, their spiritual obtuseness and grossness, we recognized in
them a power which the others had forfeited, a naive but balanced
wisdom, an animal shrewdness, a spiritual promise. The invaders, on the
other hand, however brilliant, were indeed perverts. Little by little we
came to regard the conflict as one in which an untamed but promising
urchin had been set upon by an armed religious maniac.

When the invaders had exploited every world in the new-found planetary
system, they would again feel the lust of proselytization. Persuading
themselves that it was their duty to advance their religious empire
throughout the galaxy, they would detach a couple of planets and
dispatch them into space with a crew of pioneers. Or they would break up
the whole planetary system, and scatter it abroad with missionary zeal.
Occasionally their travel brought them into contact with another race of
mad superiors. Then would follow a war in which one side or the other,
or possibly both, would be exterminated.

Sometimes the adventurers came upon worlds of their own rank which had
not succumbed to the mania of religious empire. Then the natives, though
they would at first meet the invaders with courtesy and reason, would
gradually realize that they were confronted with lunatics. They
themselves would hastily convert their civilization for warfare. The
issue would depend on superiority of weapons and military cunning; but
if the contest was long and grim, the natives, even if victorious, might
be so damaged mentally by an age of warfare that they would never
recover their sanity.

Worlds that suffered from the mania of religious imperialism would seek
interstellar travel long before economic necessity forced it upon them.
The saner world-spirits, on the other hand, often discovered sooner or
later a point beyond which increased material development and increased
population were unnecessary for the exercise of their finer capacities.
These were content to remain within their native planetary systems, in a
state of economic and social stability. They were thus able to give most
of their practical intelligence to telepathic exploration of the
universe. Telepathic intercourse between worlds was now becoming much
more precise and reliable. The galaxy had emerged from the primitive
stage when any world could remain solitary, and live out its career in
splendid isolation. In fact, just as, in the experience of Homo sapiens,
the Earth is now "shrinking" to the dimensions of a country, so, in this
critical period of the life of our galaxy, the whole galaxy was
"shrinking" to the dimensions of a world. Those world spirits that had
been most successful in telepathic exploration had by now constructed a
fairly accurate "mental map" of the whole galaxy, though there still
remained a number of eccentric worlds with which no lasting contact
could yet be made. There was also one very advanced system of worlds,
which had mysteriously "faded out" of telepathic intercourse altogether.
Of this I shall tell more in the sequel.

The telepathic ability of the mad worlds and systems was by now greatly
reduced. Though they were often under telepathic observation by the more
mature world spirits, and were even influenced to some extent, they
themselves were so self-complacent that they cared not to explore mental
life of the galaxy. Physical travel and sacred imperial power were for
them good enough means of intercourse with the surrounding universe.

In time there grew up several great rival empires of the mad worlds,
each claiming to be charged with some sort of divine mission for the
unifying and awakening of the whole galaxy. Between the ideologies of
these empires there was little to choose, yet each was opposed to the
others with religious fervor. Germinating in regions far apart, these
empires easily mastered any sub-utopian worlds that lay within reach.
Thus they spread from one planetary system to another, till at last
empire made contact with empire.

Then followed wars such as had never before occurred in our galaxy.
Fleets of worlds, natural and artificial, maneuvered among the stars to
outwit one another, and destroyed one another with long-range jets of
sub-atomic energy. As the tides of battle swept hither and thither
through space, whole planetary systems were annihilated. Many a
world-spirit found a sudden end. Many a lowly race that had no part in
the strife was slaughtered in the celestial warfare that raged around
it. Yet so vast is the galaxy that these intermundane wars, terrible as
they were, could at first be regarded as rare accidents, mere
unfortunate episodes in the triumphant march of civilization. But the
disease spread. More and more of the sane worlds, when they were
attacked by the mad empires, reorganized themselves for military
defense. They were right in believing that the situation was one with
which non-violence alone could not cope; for the enemy, unlike any
possible group of human beings, was too thoroughly purged of "humanity"
to be susceptible to sympathy. But they were wrong in hoping that arms
could save them. Even though, in the ensuing war, the defenders might
gain victory in the end, the struggle was generally so long and
devastating that the victors themselves were irreparably damaged in
spirit.

In a later and perhaps the most terrible phase of our galaxy's life I
was forcibly reminded of the state of bewilderment and anxiety that I
had left behind me on the Earth. Little by little the whole galaxy, some
ninety thousand light-years across, containing more than thirty thousand
million stars, and (by this date) over a hundred thousand planetary
systems, and actually thousands of intelligent races, was paralyzed by
the fear of war, and periodically tortured by its outbreak.

In one respect, however, the state of the galaxy was much more desperate
than the state of our little world to-day. None of our nations is an
awakened super-individual. Even those peoples which are suffering from
the mania of herd glory are composed of individuals who in their private
life are sane. A change of fortune might perhaps drive such a people
into a less crazy mood. Or skilful propaganda for the idea of human
unity might turn the scale. But in this grim age of the galaxy the mad
worlds were mad almost down to the very roots of their being. Each was a
super-individual whose whole physical and mental constitution, including
the unit bodies and minds of its private members, was by now organized
through and through for a mad purpose. There seemed to be no more
possibility of appealing to the stunted creatures to rebel against the
sacred and crazy purpose of their race than of persuading the individual
brain-cells of a maniac to make a stand for gentleness. To be alive in
those days in one of the worlds that were sane and awakened, though not
of the very highest, most percipient order, was to feel (or will be to
feel) that the plight of the galaxy was desperate. These average sane
worlds had organized themselves into a League to resist aggression; but
since they were far less developed in military organization than the mad
worlds, and much less inclined to subject their individual members to
military despotism, they were at a great disadvantage.

Moreover, the enemy was now united; for one empire had secured complete
mastery over the others, and had inspired all the mad worlds with an
identical passion of religious imperialism. Though the "United Empires"
of the mad worlds included only a minority of the worlds of the galaxy,
the sane worlds had no hope of a speedy victory; for they were
disunited, and unskilled in warfare. Meanwhile war was undermining the
mental life of the League's own members. The urgencies and horrors were
beginning to blot out from their minds all the more delicate, more
developed capacities. They were becoming less and less capable of those
activities of personal intercourse and cultural adventure which they
still forlornly recognized as the true way of life. The great majority
of the worlds of the League, finding themselves caught up in a trap from
which, seemingly, there was no escape, came despairingly to feel that
the spirit which they had thought divine, the spirit which seeks true
community and true awakening, was after all not destined to triumph, and
therefore not the essential spirit of the cosmos. Blind chance, it was
rumored, ruled all things; or perhaps a diabolic intelligence. Some
began to conceive that the Star Maker had created merely for the lust of
destroying. Undermined by this terrible surmise, they themselves sank
far toward madness. With horror they imagined that the enemy was indeed,
as he claimed, the instrument of divine wrath, punishing them for their
own impious will to turn the whole galaxy, the whole cosmos, into a
paradise of generous and fully awakened beings. Under the influence of
this growing sense of ultimate satanic power and the even more
devastating doubt of the rightness of their own ideals, the League
members despaired. Some surrendered to the enemy. Others succumbed to
internal discord, losing their mental unity. The war of the worlds
seemed likely to end in the victory of the insane. And so, indeed, it
would have done, but for the interference of that remote and brilliant
system of worlds which, as was mentioned above, had for a long while
withdrawn itself from telepathic intercourse with the rest of our
galaxy. This was the system of worlds which had been founded in the
spring-time of the galaxy by the symbiotic Ichthyoids and Arachnoids.

3. A CRISIS IN GALACTIC HISTORY

Throughout this period of imperial expansion a few world-systems of a
very high order, though less awakened than the Symbiotics of the
sub-galaxy, had watched events telepathically from afar. They saw the
frontiers of empire advancing steadily toward them, and knew that they
themselves would soon be implicated. They had the knowledge and power to
defeat the enemy in war; they received desperate appeals for help; yet
they did nothing. These were worlds that were organized through and
through for peace and the activities proper to an awakened world. They
knew that, if they chose to remake their whole social structure and
reorientate their minds, they could ensure military victory. They knew
also that they would thereby save many worlds from conquest, from
oppression and from the possible destruction of all that was best in
them. But they knew also that in reorganizing themselves for desperate
warfare, in neglecting, for a whole age of struggle, all those
activities which were proper to them, they would destroy the best in
themselves more surely than the enemy would destroy it by oppression;
and that in destroying this they would be murdering what they believed
to be the most vital germ in the galaxy. They therefore forswore
military action.

When at last one of these more developed world-systems was itself
confronted by mad religious enthusiasts, the natives welcomed the
invaders, readjusted all their planetary orbits to accommodate the
in-coming planets, pressed the foreign power actually to settle part of
its population in such of their own planets as afforded suitable
climatic conditions; and secretly, gradually, subjected the whole mad
race throughout the combined solar system to a course of telepathic
hypnotism so potent that its communal mind was completely disintegrated.
The invaders became mere uncoordinated individuals, such as we know on
Earth. Henceforth they were bewildered, short-sighted, torn by
conflicts, ruled by no supreme purpose, obsessed more by self than by
community. It had been hoped that, when the mad communal mind had been
abolished, the individuals of the invading race would soon be induced to
open their eyes and their hearts to a nobler ideal. Unfortunately the
telepathic skill of the superior race was not sufficient to delve down
to the long-buried chrysalis of the spirit in these beings, to give it
air and warmth and light. Since the individual nature of these forlorn
individuals was itself the product of a crazy world, they proved
incapable of salvation, incapable of sane community. They were therefore
segregated to work out their own unlovely destiny in ages of tribal
quarrels and cultural decline, ending in the extinction which inevitably
overtakes creatures that are incapable of adaptation to new
circumstances.

When several invading expeditions had been thus circumvented, there
arose among the worlds of the mad United Empires a tradition that
certain seemingly pacific worlds were in fact more dangerous than all
other enemies, since plainly they had a strange power of "poisoning the
soul." The imperialists determined to annihilate these terrible
opponents. The attacking forces were instructed to avoid all telepathic
parley and blow the enemy to pieces at long range. This, it was found,
could be most conveniently performed by exploding the sun of the doomed
system. Stimulated by a potent ray, the atoms of the photosphere would
start disintegrating, and the spreading fury would soon fling the star
into the "nova" state, roasting all his planets.

It was our lot to witness the extraordinary calm, nay the exaltation and
joy with which these worlds accepted the prospect of annihilation rather
than debase themselves by resistance. Later we were to watch the strange
events which saved this galaxy of ours from disaster. But first came
tragedy.

From our observation points in the minds of the attackers and the
attacked, we observed not once but three times the slaughter of races
nobler than any that we had yet encountered by perverts whose own
natural mental rank was almost as high. Three worlds, or rather systems
of worlds, each possessed by a diversity of specialized races, we saw
annihilated. From these doomed planets we actually observed the sun
break out with tumultuous eruption, swelling hourly. We actually felt,
through the bodies of our hosts, the rapidly increasing heat, and
through their eyes the blinding light. We saw the vegetation wither, the
seas begin to steam. We felt and heard the furious hurricanes which
wrecked every structure and bowled the ruins before them. With awe and
wonder we experienced something of that exaltation and inner peace with
which the doomed angelic populations met their end. Indeed, it was this
experienced angelic exaltation in the hour of tragedy that gave us our
first clear insight into the most spiritual attitude to fate. The sheer
bodily agony of the disaster soon became intolerable to us, so that we
were forced to withdraw ourselves from those martyred worlds. But we
left the doomed populations themselves accepting not only this torture
but the annihilation of their glorious community with all its infinite
hopes, accepting this bitterness as though it were not lethal but the
elixir of immortality. Not till almost the close of our own adventure
did we grasp for a moment the full meaning of this ecstasy.

It was strange to us that none of these three victims made any attempt
to resist the attack. Indeed, not one inhabitant in any of these worlds
considered for a moment the possibility of resistance. In every case the
attitude to disaster seemed to express itself in such terms as these:
"To retaliate would be to wound our communal spirit beyond cure. We
choose rather to die. The theme of spirit that we have created must
inevitably be broken short, whether by the ruthlessness of the invader
or by our own resort to arms. It is better to be destroyed than to
triumph in slaying the spirit. Such as it is, the spirit that we have
achieved is fair; and it is indestructibly woven into the tissue of the
cosmos. We die praising the universe in which at least such an
achievement as ours can be. We die knowing that the promise of further
glory outlives us in other galaxies. We die praising the Star Maker, the
Star Destroyer."

4. TRIUMPH IN A SUB-GALAXY

It was after the destruction of the third system of worlds, when a
fourth was preparing for its end, that a miracle, or a seeming miracle,
changed the whole course of events in our galaxy. Before telling of this
turn of fortune I must double back the thread of my story and trace the
history of the system of worlds which was now to play the leading part
in galactic events.

It will be remembered that in an outlying "island" off the galactic
"continent" there lived the strange symbiotic race of Ichthyoids and
Arachnoids. These beings supported almost the oldest civilization in the
galaxy. They had reached the "human" plane of mental development even
before the Other Men; and, in spite of many vicissitudes, during the
thousands of millions of years of their career they had made great
progress. I referred to them last as having occupied all the planets of
their system with specialized races of Arachnoids, all of which were in
permanent telepathic union with the Ichthyoid population in the oceans
of the home planet. As the ages passed, they were several times reduced
almost to annihilation, now by too daring physical experiments, now
through too ambitious telepathic exploration; but in time they won
through to a mental development unequaled in our galaxy. Their little
island universe, their outlying cluster of stars, had come wholly under
their control. It contained many natural planetary systems. Several of
these included worlds which, when the early Arachnoid explorers visited
them telepathically, were found to be inhabited by native races of
pre-utopian rank. These were left to work out their own destiny, save
that in certain crises of their history the Symbiotics secretly brought
to bear on them from afar a telepathic influence that might help them
to meet their difficulties with increased vigor. Thus when one of these
worlds reached the crisis in which Homo sapiens now stands, it passed
with seemingly natural ease straight on to the phase of world-unity and
the building of Utopia. Great care was taken by the Symbiotic race to
keep its existence hidden from the primitives, lest they should lose
their independence of mind. Thus, even while the Symbiotics were
voyaging among these worlds in rocket vessels and using the mineral
resources of neighboring uninhabited planets, the intelligent worlds of
pre-utopian rank were left unvisited. Not till these worlds had
themselves entered the full Utopian phase and were exploring their
neighbor planets were they allowed to discover the truth. By then they
were ready to receive it with exultation, rather than disheartenment and
fear. Thenceforth, by physical and telepathic intercourse the
young-utopia would be speedily brought up to the spiritual rank of the
Symbiotics themselves, and would cooperate on an equal footing in a
symbiosis of worlds.

Some of these pre-utopian worlds, not malignant but incapable of further
advance, were left in peace, and preserved, as we preserve wild animals
in national parks, for scientific interest. Aeon after aeon, these
beings, tethered by their own futility, struggled in vain to cope with
the crisis which modern Europe knows so well. In cycle after cycle
civilization would emerge from barbarism, mechanization would bring the
peoples into uneasy contact, national wars and class wars would breed
the longing for a better world-order, but breed it in vain. Disaster
after disaster would undermine the fabric of civilization. Gradually
barbarism would return. Aeon after aeon, the process would repeat itself
under the calm telepathic observation of the Symbiotics, whose existence
was never suspected by the primitive creatures under their gaze. So
might we ourselves look down into some rock-pool where lowly creatures
repeat with naive zest dramas learned by their ancestors aeons ago.

The Symbiotics could well afford to leave these museum pieces intact,
for they had at their disposal scores of planetary systems. Moreover,
armed with their highly developed physical sciences and with sub-atomic
power, they were able to construct, out in space, artificial planets for
permanent habitation. These great hollow globes of artificial
super-metals, and artificial transparent adamant, ranged in size from
the earliest and smallest structures, which were no bigger than a very
small asteroid, to spheres considerably larger than the Earth. They were
without external atmosphere, since their mass was generally too slight
to prevent the escape of gases. A blanket of repelling force protected
them from meteors and cosmic rays. The planet's external surface, which
was wholly transparent, encased the atmosphere. Immediately beneath it
hung the photosynthesis stations and the machinery for generating power
from solar radiation. Part of this outer shell was occupied by
astronomical observatories, machinery for controlling the planet's
orbit, and great "docks" for interplanetary liners. The interior of
these worlds was a system of concentric spheres supported by girders and
gigantic arches. Interspersed between these spheres lay the machinery
for atmospheric regulation, the great water reservoirs, the food
factories and commodity-factories, the engineering shops, the
refuse-conversion tracts, residential and recreational areas, and a
wealth of research laboratories, libraries and cultural centers. Since
the Symbiotic race was in origin marine, there was a central ocean where
the profoundly modified, the physically indolent and mentally athletic
descendants of the original Ichthyoids constituted the "highest brain
tracts" of the intelligent world. There, as in the primeval ocean of the
home planet, the symbiotic partners sought one another, and the young of
both species were nurtured. Such races of the sub-galaxy as were not in
origin marine constructed, of course, artificial planets which, though
of the same general type, were adapted to their special nature. But all
the races found it also necessary to mold their own nature drastically
to suit their new conditions. As the aeons advanced, hundreds of
thousands of worldlets were constructed, all of this type, but gradually
increasing in size and complexity. Many a star without natural planets
came to be surrounded by concentric rings of artificial worlds. In some
cases the inner rings contained scores, the outer rings thousands of
globes adapted to life at some particular distance from the sun. Great
diversity, both physical and mental, would distinguish worlds even of
the same ring. Sometimes a comparatively old world, or even a whole ring
of worlds, would feel itself outstripped in mental excellence by younger
worlds and races, whose structure, physical and biological, embodied
increasing skill. Then either the superannuated world would simply
continue its life in a sort of backwater of civilization, tolerated,
loved, studied by the younger worlds; or it would choose to die and
surrender the material of its planet for new ventures.

One very small and rather uncommon kind of artificial world consisted
almost wholly of water. It was like a titanic bowl of gold-fish. Beneath
its transparent shell, studded with rocket-machinery and interplanetary
docks, lay a spherical ocean, crossed by structural girders, and
constantly impregnated with oxygen. A small solid core represented the
sea-bottom. The population of Ichthyoids and the visiting population of
Arachnoids swarmed in this huge encrusted drop. Each Ichthyoid would be
visited in turn by perhaps a score of partners whose working life was
spent on other worlds. The life of the Ichthyoids was indeed a strange
one, for they were at once imprisoned and free of all space. An
Ichthyoid never left his native ocean, but he had telepathic intercourse
with the whole Symbiotic race throughout the sub-galaxy. Moreover, the
one form of practical activity which the Ichthyoids performed was
astronomy. Immediately beneath the planet's glassy crust hung
observatories, where the swimming astronomers studied the constitution
of the stars and the distribution of the galaxies.

These "gold-fish-bowl" worlds turned out to be transitional. Shortly
before the age of the mad empires the Symbiotics began to experiment for
the production of a world which should consist of a single physical
organism. After ages of experiment they produced a "gold-fish-bowl" type
of world in which the whole ocean was meshed by a fixed network of
Ichthyoid individuals in direct neural connection with one another. This
world-wide, living, polyp-like tissue had permanent attachments to the
machinery and observatories of the world. Thus it constituted a truly
organic world-organism, and since the coherent Ichthyoid population
supported together a perfectly unified mentality, each of these worlds
was indeed in the fullest sense a minded organism, like a man. One
essential link with the past was preserved. Arachnoids, specially
adapted to the new symbiosis, would visit from their remote planets and
swim along the submarine galleries for union with their anchored mates.

More and more of the stars of the outlying cluster or sub-galaxy came to
be girdled with rings of worlds, and an increasing number of these
worlds were of the new, organic type. Of the populations of the
sub-galaxy most were descendants of the original Ichthyoids or
Arachnoids; but there were also many whose natural ancestors were
humanesque, and not a few that had sprung from avians, insectoids or
plant men. Between the worlds, between the rings of worlds, and between
the solar systems there was constant intercourse, both telepathic and
physical. Small, rocket-propelled vessels plied regularly within each
system of planets. Larger vessels or high-speed worldlets voyaged from
system to system, explored the whole subgalaxy, and even ventured
across the ocean of emptiness into the main body of the galaxy, where
thousands upon thousands of planetless stars awaited encirclement by
rings of worlds.

Strangely, the triumphant advance of material civilization and
colonization now slowed down and actually came to a standstill. Physical
intercourse between worlds of the sub-galaxy was maintained, but not
increased. Physical exploration of the neighboring fringe of the
galactic "continent" was abandoned. Within the sub-galaxy itself no new
worlds were founded. Industrial activities continued, but at reduced
pressure, and no further advance was made in the standard of material
convenience. Indeed, manners and customs began to grow less dependent on
mechanical aids. Among the Symbiotic worlds, the Arachnoid populations
were reduced in number; the Ichthyoids in their cells of ocean lived in
a permanent state of mental concentration and fervor, which of course
was telepathically shared by their partners.

It was at this time that telepathic intercourse between the advanced
sub-galaxy and the few awakened worlds of the continent was entirely
abolished. During recent ages, communication had been very fragmentary.
The Sub-Galactics had apparently so far outstripped their neighbors that
their interest in those primitives had become purely archaeological, and
was gradually eclipsed by the enthralling life of their own community of
worlds, and by their telepathic exploration of remote galaxies. To us,
the band of explorers, desperately struggling to maintain contact
between our communal mind and the incomparably more developed minds of
these worlds, the finest activities of the Sub-Galactics were at present
inaccessible. We observed only a stagnation of the more obvious physical
and mental activities of these systems of worlds. It seemed at first
that this stagnation must be caused by some obscure flaw in their
nature. Was it, perhaps, the first stage of irrevocable decline? Later,
however, we began to discover that this seeming stagnation was a symptom
not of death but of more vigorous life. Attention had been drawn from
material advancement just because it had opened up new spheres of mental
discovery and growth. In fact the great community of worlds, whose
members consisted of some thousands of world-spirits, was busy digesting
the fruits of its prolonged phase of physical progress, and was now
finding itself capable of new and unexpected psychical activities. At
first the nature of these activities was entirely hidden from us. But in
time we learned how to let ourselves be gathered up by these superhuman
beings so as to obtain at least an obscure glimpse of the matters which
so enthralled them. They were concerned, it seemed, partly with
telepathic exploration of the great host of ten million galaxies, partly
with a technique of spiritual discipline by which they strove to come to
more penetrating insight into the nature of the cosmos and to a finer
creativity. This, we learned, was possible because their perfect
community of worlds was tentatively waking into a higher plane of being,
as a single communal mind whose body was the whole sub-galaxy of worlds.
Though we could not participate in the life of this lofty being, we
guessed that its absorbing passion was not wholly unlike the longing of
the noblest of our own human species to "come face to face with God."
This new being desired to have the percipience and the hardihood to
endure direct vision of the source of all light and life and love. In
fact this whole population of worlds was rapt in a prolonged and
mystical adventure.

5. THE TRAGEDY OF THE PERVERTS

Such was the state of affairs when, in the main galactic "continent,"
the mad United Empires concentrated their power upon the few worlds that
were not merely sane but of superior mental rank. The attention of the
Symbiotics and their colleagues in the supremely civilized sub-galaxy
had long been withdrawn from the petty affairs of the "continent." It
was given instead to the cosmos as a whole and to the inner discipline
of the spirit. But the first of the three murders perpetrated by the
United Empires upon a population far more developed than themselves
seems to have caused a penetrating reverberation to echo, so to speak,
through all the loftier spheres of existence. Even in the full flight of
their career, the Sub-Galactics took cognizance. Once more attention was
directed telepathically to the neighboring continent of stars. While the
situation was being studied, the second murder was committed. The
Sub-Galactics knew that they had power to prevent any further disaster.
Yet, to our surprise, our horror and incomprehension, they calmly
awaited the third murder. Still more strange, the doomed worlds
themselves, though in telepathic communication with the sub-galaxy, made
no appeal for help. Victims and spectators alike studied the situation
with quiet interest, even with a sort of bright exultation not wholly
unlike amusement. From our lowlier plane this detachment, this seeming
levity, at first appeared less angelic than inhuman. Here was a whole
world of sensitive and intelligent beings in the full tide of eager life
and communal activity. Here were lovers newly come together, scientists
in the midst of profound research, artists intent on new delicacies of
apprehension, workers in a thousand practical social undertakings of
which man has no conception, here in fact was all the rich diversity of
personal lives that go to make up a highly developed world in action.
And each of these individual minds participated in the communal mind of
all; each experienced not only as a private individual but as the very
spirit of his race. Yet these calm beings faced the destruction of their
world with no more distress seemingly than one of us would feel at the
prospect of resigning his part in some interesting game. And in the
minds of the spectators of this impending tragedy we observed no agony
of compassion, but only such commiseration, tinged with humor, as we
might feel for some distinguished tennis-player who was knocked out in
the first round of a tournament by some trivial accident such as a
sprained ankle.

With difficulty we came to understand the source of this strange
equanimity. Spectators and victims alike were so absorbed in
cosmological research, so conscious of the richness and potentiality of
the cosmos, and above all so possessed by spiritual contemplation, that
the destruction was seen, even by the victims themselves, from the point
of view which men would call divine. Their gay exaltation and their
seeming frivolity were rooted in the fact that to them the personal
life, and even the life and death of individual worlds, appeared chiefly
as vital themes contributing to the life of the cosmos. From the
cosmical point of view the disaster was after all a very small though
poignant matter. Moreover, if by the sacrifice of another group of
worlds, even of splendidly awakened worlds, greater insight could be
attained into the insanity of the Mad Empires, the sacrifice was well
worth while.

So the third murder was committed. Then came the miracle. The telepathic
skill of the sub-galaxy was far more developed than that of the
scattered superior worlds on the galactic "continent." It could dispense
with the aid of normal intercourse, and it could overcome every
resistance. It could reach right down to the buried chrysalis of the
spirit even in the most perverted individual. This was not a merely
destructive power, blotting out the communal mind hypnotically; it was a
kindling, an awakening power, brought to bear on the sane but dormant
core of each individual. This skill was now exercised upon the galactic
continent with triumphant but also tragic effect; for even this skill
was not omnipotent. There appeared here and there among the mad worlds a
strange and spreading "disease" of the mind. To the orthodox
imperialists in those worlds themselves it seemed a madness; but it was
in fact a late and ineffectual waking into sanity on the part of beings
whose nature had been molded through and through for madness in a mad
environment.

The course of this "disease" of sanity in a mad world ran generally as
follows. Individuals here and there, while still playing their part in
the well-disciplined action and communal thought of the world, would
find themselves teased by private doubts and disgusts opposed to the
dearest assumptions of the world in which they lived, doubts of the
worth of record-breaking travel and record-breaking empire, and disgust
with the cult of mechanical triumph and intellectual servility and the
divinity of the race. As these disturbing thoughts increased, the
bewildered individuals would begin to fear for their own "sanity."
Presently they would cautiously sound their neighbors. Little by little,
doubt would become more widespread and more vocal, until at last
considerable minorities in each world, though still playing their
official part, would lose contact with the communal mind, and become
mere isolated individuals; but individuals at heart more sane than the
lofty communal mind from which they had fallen. The orthodox majority,
horrified at this mental disintegration, would then apply the familiar
ruthless methods that had been used so successfully in the uncivilized
outposts of empire. The dissentients would be arrested, and either
destroyed outright or concentrated upon the most inhospitable planet, in
the hope that their torture might prove an effective warning to others.

This policy failed. The strange mental disease spread more and more
rapidly, till the "lunatics" outnumbered the "sane." There followed
civil wars, mass-martyrdom of devoted pacifists, dissension among the
imperialists, a steady increase of "lunacy" in every world of the
empire. The whole imperial organization fell to pieces; and since the
aristocratic worlds that formed the backbone of empire were as impotent
as soldier-ants to maintain themselves without the service and tribute
of the subject worlds, the loss of empire doomed them to death. When
almost the whole population of such a world had gone sane, great efforts
would be made to reorganize its life for self-sufficiency and peace. It
might have been expected that this task, though difficult, would not
have defeated a population of beings whose sheer intelligence and social
loyalty were incomparably greater than anything known on earth. But
there were unexpected difficulties, not economic but psychological.
These beings had been fashioned for war, tyranny and empire. Though
telepathic stimulation from superior minds could touch into life the
slumbering germ of the spirit in them, and help them to realize the
triviality of their world's whole purpose, telepathic influence could
not refashion their nature to such an extent that they could henceforth
actually live for the spirit and renounce the old life. In spite of
heroic self-discipline, they tended to sink into inertia, like wild
beasts domesticated; or to run amok, and exercise against one another
those impulses of domination which hitherto had been directed upon
subject worlds. And all this they did with profound consciousness of
guilt.

For us it was heartrending to watch the agony of these worlds. Never did
the newly enlightened beings lose their vision of true community and of
the spiritual life; but though the vision haunted them, the power to
realize it in the detail of action was lost. Moreover, there were times
when the change of heart that they had suffered seemed to them actually
a change for the worse. Formerly all individuals had been perfectly
disciplined to the common will, and perfectly happy in executing that
will without the heart-searchings of individual responsibility. But now
individuals were mere individuals; and all were tormented by mutual
suspicion and by violent propensities for self-seeking.

The issue of this appalling struggle in the minds of these former
imperialists depended on the extent to which specialization for empire
had affected them. In a few young worlds, in which specialization had
not gone deep, a period of chaos was followed by a period of
reorientation and world-planning, and in due season by sane Utopia. But
in most of these worlds no such escape was possible. Either chaos
persisted till racial decline set in, and the world sank to the human,
the sub-human, the merely animal states; or else, in a few cases only,
the discrepancy between the ideal and the actual was so distressing that
the whole race committed suicide.

We could not long endure the spectacle of scores of worlds falling into
psychological ruin. Yet the Sub-Galactics who had caused these strange
events, and continued to use their power to clarify and so destroy these
minds, watched their handiwork unflinchingly. Pity they felt, pity such
as we feel for a child that has broken its toy; but no indignation
against fate.

Within a few thousand years every one of the imperial worlds had either
transformed itself or fallen into barbarism or committed suicide.

6. A GALACTIC UTOPIA

The events that I have been describing took place, or from the human
point of view will take place, at a date as far future to us as we are
from the condensation of the earliest stars. The next period of galactic
history covers the period from the fall of the mad empires to the
achievement of Utopia in the whole galactic community of worlds. This
transitional period was in itself in a manner Utopian; for it was an age
of triumphant progress carried out by beings whose nature was rich and
harmonious, whose nurture was entirely favorable, and their
ever-widening galactic community a wholly satisfying object of loyalty.
It was only not Utopian in the sense that the galactic society was still
expanding and constantly changing its structure to meet new needs,
economic and spiritual. At the close of this phase there came a period
of full Utopia in which the attention of the perfected galactic
community was directed mainly beyond itself toward other galaxies. Of
this I shall tell in due course; and of the unforeseen and stormy events
which shattered this beatitude.

Meanwhile we must glance at the age of expansion. The worlds of the
sub-galaxy, recognizing that no further great advance in culture was
possible unless the population of awakened worlds was immensely
increased and diversified, now began to play an active part in the work
of reorganizing the whole galactic continent. By telepathic
communication they gave to all awakened worlds throughout the galaxy
knowledge of the triumphant society which they themselves had created;
and they called upon all to join them in the founding of the galactic
Utopia. Every world throughout the galaxy, they said, must be an
intensely conscious individual; and each must contribute its personal
idiosyncrasy and all the wealth of its experience to the pooled
experience of all. When at last the community was completed, they said,
it must go on to fulfil its function in the far greater community of all
galaxies, there to participate in spiritual activities as yet but dimly
guessed.

In their earlier age of meditation the sub-galactic worlds, or rather
the single intermittently awakening mind of the sub-galaxy, had
evidently made discoveries which had very precise bearing on the
founding of the galactic society; for they now put forward the demand
that the number of minded worlds in the galaxy must be increased to at
least ten thousand times its present extent. In order that all the
potentialities of the spirit should be fulfilled, they said there must
be a far greater diversity of world-types, and thousands of worlds of
each type. They themselves, in their small sub-galactic community, had
learned enough to realize that only a very much greater community could
explore all the regions of being, some few of which they themselves had
glimpsed, but only from afar.

The natural worlds of the galactic continent were bewildered and alarmed
by the magnitude of this scheme. They were content with the extant scale
of life. The spirit, they affirmed, had no concern for magnitude and
multiplicity. To this the reply was made that such a protest came ill
from worlds whose own achievement depended on the splendid diversity of
their members. Diversity and multiplicity of worlds was as necessary on
the galactic plane as diversity and multiplicity of individuals on the
world plane and diversity and multiplicity of nerve-cells on the
individual plane. In the upshot the natural worlds of the "continent"
played a decreasing part in the advancing life of the galaxy. Some
merely remained at the level of their own unaided achievement. Some
joined in the great cooperative work, but without fervor and without
genius. A few joined heartily and usefully in the enterprise. One,
indeed, was able to contribute greatly. This was a symbiotic race, but
of a very different kind from that which had founded the community of
the sub-galaxy. The symbiosis consisted of two races which had
originally inhabited separate planets of the same system. An intelligent
avian species, driven to desperation by the desiccation of its native
planet, had contrived to invade a neighboring world inhabited by a
manlike species. Here I must not tell how, after ages of alternating
strife and cooperation, a thorough economic and psychological symbiosis
was established.

The building of the galactic community of worlds lies far beyond the
comprehension of the writer of this book. I cannot now remember at all
clearly what I experienced of these obscure matters in the state of
heightened lucidity which came to me through participation in the
communal mind of the explorers. And even in that state I was bewildered
by the effort to comprehend the aims of that close-knit community of
worlds.

If my memory is to be trusted at all, three kinds of activity occupied
the minded worlds in this phase of galactic history. The main practical
work was to enrich and harmonize the life of the galaxy itself, to
increase the number and diversity and mental unity of the fully awakened
worlds up to the point which, it was believed, was demanded for the
emergence of a mode of experience more awakened than any hitherto
attained. The second kind of activity was that which sought to make
closer contact with the other galaxies by physical and telepathic study.
The third was the spiritual exercise appropriate to beings of the rank
of the world-minds. This last seems to have been concerned (or will be
concerned) at once with the deepening of the self-awareness of each
individual world-spirit and the detachment of its will from merely
private fulfilment. But this was not all. For on this relatively high
level of the spirit's ascent, as on our own lowliest of all spiritual
planes, there had also to be a more radical detachment from the whole
adventure of life and mind in the cosmos. For, as the spirit wakens, it
craves more and more to regard all existence not merely with a
creature's eyes, but in the universal view, as though through the eyes
of the creator.

At first the task of establishing the galactic Utopia occupied almost
the whole energy of the awakened worlds. More and more of the stars were
encircled with concentric hoops of pearls, perfect though artificial.
And each pearl was a unique world, occupied by a unique race. Henceforth
the highest level of persistent individuality was not a world but a
system of scores of hundreds of worlds. And between the systems there
was as easy and delightful converse as between human individuals.

In these conditions, to be a conscious individual was to enjoy
immediately the united sensory impressions of all the races inhabiting a
system of worlds. And as the sense-organs of the worlds apprehended not
only "nakedly" but also through artificial instruments of great range
and subtlety, the conscious individual perceived not only the structure
of hundreds of planets, but also the configuration of the whole system
of planets clustered about its sun. Other systems also it perceived, as
men perceive one another; for in the distance the glittering bodies of
other "multi-mundane" persons like itself gyrated and drifted.

Between the minded planetary systems occurred infinite variations of
personal intercourse. As between human individuals, there were loves
and hates, temperamental sympathies and antipathies, joyful and
distressful intimacies, cooperations and thwartings in personal ventures
and in the great common venture of building the galactic Utopia.

Between individual systems of the worlds, as between symbiotic partners,
there sometimes occurred relationships with an almost sexual flavor,
though actual sex played no part in them. Neighboring systems would
project traveling worldlets, or greater worlds, or trains of worlds,
across the ocean of space to take up orbits round each other's suns and
play intimate parts in symbiotic, or rather "sympsychic" relationships
in one another's private lives. Occasionally a whole system would migrate
to another system, and settle its worlds in rings between the rings of
the other system.

Telepathic intercourse united the whole galaxy; but telepathy, though it
had the great advantage that it was not affected by distance, was
seemingly imperfect in other ways. So far as possible it was
supplemented by physical travel. A constant stream of touring worldlets
percolated through the wholy galaxy in every direction.

The task of establishing Utopia in the galaxy was not pursued without
friction. Different kinds of races were apt to have different policies
for the galaxy. Though war was by now unthinkable, the sort of strife
which we know between individuals or associations within the same state
was common. There was, for instance, a constant struggle between the
planetary systems that were chiefly interested in the building of
Utopia, those that were most concerned to make contact with other
galaxies, and those whose main preoccupation was spiritual. Besides
these great parties, there were groups of planetary systems which were
prone to put the well-being of individual world-systems above the
advancement of galactic enterprise. They cared more for the drama of
personal intercourse and the fulfilment of the personal capacity of
worlds and systems than for organization or exploration of spiritual
purification. Though their presence was often exasperating to the
enthusiasts, it was salutary, for it was a guarantee against
extravagance and against tyranny.

It was during the age of the galactic Utopia that another salutary
influence began to take full effect on the busy worlds. Telepathic
research had made contact with the long-extinct plant men, who had been
undone by the extravagance of their own mystical quietism. The Utopian
worlds now learned much from these archaic but uniquely sensitive
beings. Henceforth the vegetal mode of experience was thoroughly, but
not dangerously, knit into the texture of the galactic mind.



CHAPTER X

A VISION OF THE GALAXY

IT seemed to us now that the troubles of the many worlds of this galaxy
were at last over, that the will to support the galactic Utopia was now
universal, and that the future must bring glory after glory. We felt
assured of the same progress in other galaxies. In our simplicity we
looked forward to the speedy, the complete and final, triumph of the
striving spirit throughout the cosmos. We even conceived that the Star
Maker rejoiced in the perfection of his work. Using such symbols as we
could to express the inexpressible, we imagined that, before the
beginning, the Star Maker was alone, and that for love and for community
he resolved to make a perfect creature, to be his mate. We imagined that
he made her of his hunger for beauty and his will for love; but that he
also scourged her in the making, and tormented her, so that she might at
last triumph over all adversity, and thereby achieve such perfection as
he in his almightiness could never attain. The cosmos we conceived to be
that creature. And it seemed to us in our simplicity that we had already
witnessed the greater part of cosmical growth, and that there remained
only the climax of that growth, the telepathic union of all the galaxies
to become the single, fully awakened spirit of the cosmos, perfect, fit
to be eternally contemplated and enjoyed by the Star Maker.

All this seemed to us majestically right. Yet we ourselves had no joy in
it. We had been sated with the spectacle of continuous and triumphant
progress in the latter age of our galaxy, and we were no longer curious
about the host of the other galaxies. Almost certainly they were much
like our own. We were, in fact, overwhelmingly fatigued and
disillusioned. During so many aeons we had followed the fortunes of the
many worlds. So often we had lived out their passions, novel to them,
but to us for the most part repetitive. We had shared all kinds of
sufferings, all kinds of glories and shames. And now that the cosmical
ideal, the full awakening of the spirit, seemed on the point of
attainment, we found ourselves a little tired of it. What matter whether
the whole huge drama of existence should be intricately known and
relished by the perfected spirit or not? What matter whether we
ourselves should complete our pilgrimage or not?

During so many aeons our company, distributed throughout the galaxy, had
with difficulty maintained its single communal mentality. At all times
"we," in spite of our severally, were in fact "I," the single observer
of the many worlds; but the maintaining of this identity was itself
becoming a toil. "I" was overpowered with sleepiness; "we," severally,
longed for our little native worlds, our homes, our lairs; and for the
animal obtuseness that had walled us in from all the immensities. In
particular, I, the Englishman, longed to be sleeping safely in that room
where she and I had slept together, the day's urgencies all blotted out,
and nothing left but sleep and the shadowy, the peaceful awareness in
each of the other.

But though I was fatigued beyond endurance, sleep would not come. I
remained perforce with my colleagues, and with the many triumphant
worlds. Slowly we were roused from our dowsiness by a discovery. It
gradually appeared to us that the prevailing mood of these countless
Utopian systems of worlds was at heart very different from that of
triumph. In every world we found a deep conviction of the littleness and
impotence of all finite beings, no matter how exalted. In a certain
world there was a kind of poet. When we told him our conception of the
cosmical goal, he said, "When the cosmos wakes, if ever she does, she
will find herself not the single beloved of her maker, but merely a
little bubble adrift on the boundless and bottomless ocean of being."

What had seemed to us at first the irresistible march of god-like
world-spirits, with all the resources of the universe in their hands and
all eternity before them, was now gradually revealed in very different
guise. The great advance in mental caliber, and the attainment of
communal mentality throughout the cosmos, had brought a change in the
experience of time. The temporal reach of the mind had been very greatly
extended. The awakened worlds experienced an aeon as a mere crowded day.
They were aware of time's passage as a man in a canoe might have
cognizance of a river which in its upper reaches is sluggish but
subsequently breaks into rapids and becomes swifter and swifter, till,
at no great distance ahead, it must plunge in a final cataract down to
the sea, namely to the eternal end of life, the extinction of the stars.
Comparing the little respite that remained with the great work which
they passionately desired to accomplish, namely the full awakening of
the cosmical spirit, they saw that at best there was no time to spare,
and that, more probably, it was already too late to accomplish the task.
They had a strange foreboding that unforeseen disaster lay in store for
them. It was sometimes said, "We know not what the stars, even, have in
store for us, still less what the Star Maker." And it was sometimes
said, "We should not for a moment consider even our best-established
knowledge of existence as true. It is awareness only of the colors that
our own vision paints on the film of one bubble in one strand of foam on
the ocean of being." The sense of the fated incompleteness of all
creatures and of all their achievements gave to the Galactic Society of
Worlds a charm, a sanctity, as of some short-lived and delicate flower.
And it was with an increasing sense of precarious beauty that we
ourselves were now learning to regard the far-flung Utopia. In this mood
we had a remarkable experience.

We had embarked upon a sort of holiday from exploration, seeking the
refreshment of disembodied flight in space. Gathering our whole company
together out of all the worlds, we centered ourselves into a single
mobile viewpoint; and then, as one being, we glided and circled among
the stars and nebulae. Presently the whim took us to plunge into outer
space. We hastened till the forward stars turned violet, the hinder red;
till both forward and hinder vanished; till all visible features were
extinguished by the wild speed of our flight. In absolute darkness we
brooded on the origin and the destiny of the galaxies, and on the
appalling contrast between the cosmos and our minute home-lives to which
we longed to return.

Presently we came to rest. In doing so we discovered that our situation
was not such as we expected. The galaxy whence we had emerged did indeed
lie far behind us, no bigger than a great cloud; but it was not the
featured spiral that it should have been. After some confusion of mind
we realized that we were looking at the galaxy in an early stage of its
existence, in fact at a time before it was really a galaxy at all. For
the cloud was no cloud of stars, but a continuous mist of light. At its
heart was a vague brilliance, which faded softly into the dim outer
regions and merged without perceptible boundary into the black sky. Even
the sky itself was quite unfamiliar. Though empty of stars, it was
densely peopled with a great number of pale clouds. All seemingly were
farther from us than that from which we had come, but several bulked as
largely as Orion in the Earth's sky. So congested was the heaven that
many of the great objects were continuous with one another in their
filmy extremities, and many were separated only by mere channels of
emptiness, through which loomed vistas of more remote nebulae, some of
them so distant as to be mere spots of light.

It was clear that we had traveled back through time to a date when the
great nebulae were still near neighbors to one another, before the
explosive nature of the cosmos had done more than separate them out from
the continuous and congested primal substance.

As we watched, it became obvious that events were unfolding before us
with fantastic speed. Each cloud visibly shrank, withdrawing into the
distance. It also changed its shape. Each vague orb flattened somewhat,
and became more definite. Receding and therefore diminishing, the
nebulae now appeared as lens-shaped mists, tilted at all angles. But,
even as we watched, they withdrew themselves so far into the depth of
space that it became difficult to observe their changes. Only our own
native nebula remained beside us, a huge oval stretching across half the
sky. On this we now concentrated our attention.

Differences began to appear within it, regions of brighter and of less
bright mist, faint streaks and swirls, like the foam on the sea's waves.
These shadowy features slowly moved, as wisps of cloud move on the
hills. Presently it was clear that the internal currents of the nebula
were on the whole set in a common pattern. The great world of gas was in
fact slowly rotating, almost as a tornado. As it rotated it continued to
flatten. It was now like some blurred image of a streaked and flattish
pebble, handy for "ducks and drakes," held too near the eye to be
focused. Presently we noticed, with our novel and miraculous vision,
that microscopic points of intenser light were appearing here and there
throughout the cloud, but mainly in its outer regions. As we watched,
their number grew, and the spaces between them grew dark. Thus were the
stars born.

The great cloud still span and flattened. It was soon a disc of whirling
star-streams and strands of uncondensed gas, the last disintegrating
tissues of the primal nebula. These continued to move within the whole
by their own semi-independent activity, changing their shapes, creeping
like living things, extending pseudopodia, and visibly fading as clouds
fade; but giving place to new generations of stars. The heart of the
nebula was now condensing into a smaller bulk, more clearly defined. It
was a huge, congested globe of brilliance. Here and there throughout the
disc knots and lumps of light were the embryonic star-clusters. The
whole nebula was strewn with these balls of thistledown, these feathery,
sparkling, fairy decorations, each one in fact pregnant with a small
universe of stars.

The galaxy, for such it could now be named, continued visibly to whirl
with hypnotic constancy. Its tangled tresses of star-streams were spread
abroad on the darkness. Now it was like a huge broad-brimmed white
sombrero, the crown a glowing mass, the brim a filmy expanse of stars.
It was a cardinal's hat, spinning. The two long whirling tassels on the
brim were two long spiraling star-streams. Their frayed extremities had
broken away and become sub-galaxies, revolving about the main galactic
system. The whole, like a spinning top, swayed; and, as it tilted before
us, the brim appeared as an ever narrower ellipse, till presently it was
edge-on, and the outermost fringe of it, composed of non-luminous
matter, formed a thin, dark, knotted line across the glowing inner
substance of nebula and stars. Peering, straining to see more precisely
the texture of this shimmering and nacrous wonder, this largest of all
the kinds of objects in the cosmos, we found that our new vision, even
while embracing the whole galaxy and the distant galaxies, apprehended
each single star as a tiny disc separated from its nearest neighbors
much as a cork on the Arctic Ocean would be separated from another cork
on the Antarctic. Thus, in spite of the nebulous and opalescent beauty
of its general form, the galaxy also appeared to us as a void sprinkled
with very sparse scintillations.

Observing the stars more closely, we saw that while they streamed along
in companies like shoals of fishes, their currents sometimes
interpenetrated. Then seemingly the stars of the different streams,
crossing one another's paths, pulled at one another, moving in great
sweeping curves as they passed from one neighbor's influence to another.
Thus, in spite of their remoteness each from each, the stars often
looked curiously like minute living creatures taking cognizance of one
another from afar. Sometimes they swung hyperbolically round one another
and away, or, more rarely, united to form binaries.

So rapidly did time pass before us that aeons were packed into moments.
We had seen the first stars condense from the nebular tissue as ruddy
giants, though in the remote view inconceivably minute. A surprising
number of these, perhaps through the centrifugal force of their
rotation, were burst asunder to form binaries, so that, increasingly,
the heaven was peopled by these waltzing pairs. Meanwhile, the giant
stars slowly shrank and gathered brightness. They passed from red to
yellow, and on to dazzling white and blue. While other young giants
condensed around them, they shrank still further, and their color
changed once more to yellow and to smoldering red. Presently we saw the
eldest of the stars one by one extinguished like sparks from a fire. The
incidence of this mortality increased, slowly but steadily. Sometimes a
"nova" flashed out and faded, outshining for a moment all its myriad
neighbors. Here and there a "variable" pulsated with inconceivable
rapidity. Now and again we saw a binary and a third star approach one
another so closely that one or other of the group reached out a filament
of its substance toward its partner. Straining our supernatural vision,
we saw these filaments break and condense into planets. And we were awed
by the infinitesimal size and the rarity of these seeds of life among
the lifeless host of the stars.

But the stars themselves gave an irresistible impression of vitality.
Strange that the movements of these merely physical things, these mere
fire-balls, whirling and traveling according to the geometrical laws of
their minutest particles, should seem so vital, so questing. But then
the whole galaxy was itself so vital, so like an organism, with its
delicate tracery of star-streams, like the streams within a living cell;
and its extended wreaths, almost like feelers; and its nucleus of light.
Surely this great and lovely creature must be alive, must have
intelligent experience of itself and of things other than it.

In the tide of these wild thoughts we checked our fancy, remembering
that only on the rare grains called planets can life gain foothold, and
that all this wealth of restless jewels was but a waste of fire.

With rising affection and longing we directed our attention more
minutely toward the earliest planetary grains as they condensed out of
the whirling filaments of flame, to become at first molten drops that
span and pulsated, then grew rock-encrusted, ocean-filmed, and swathed
in atmosphere. Our piercing sight observed their shallow waters ferment
with life, which soon spread into their oceans and continents. A few of
these early worlds we saw waken to intelligence of human rank; and very
soon these were in the throes of the great struggle for the spirit, from
which still fewer emerged victorious.

Meanwhile new planetary births, rare among the stars, yet, in all,
thousands upon thousands, had launched new worlds and new biographies.
We saw the Other Earth, with its recurrent glories and shames, and its
final suffocation. We saw the many other humanesque worlds, Echinoderm,
Centaurian, and so on. We saw Man on his little Earth blunder through
many alternating phases of dullness and lucidity, and again abject
dullness. From epoch to epoch his bodily shape changed as a cloud
changes. We watched him in his desperate struggle with Martian invaders;
and then, after a moment that included further ages of darkness and of
light, we saw him driven, by dread of the moon's downfall, away to
inhospitable Venus. Later still, after an aeon that was a mere sigh in
the lifetime of the cosmos, he fled before the exploding sun to Neptune,
there to sink back into mere animality for further aeons again. But then
he climbed once more and reached his finest intelligence, only to be
burnt up like a moth in a flame by irresistible catastrophe.

All this long human story, most passionate and tragic in the living, was
but an unimportant, a seemingly barren and negligible effort, lasting
only for a few moments in the life of the galaxy. When it was over, the
host of the planetary systems still lived on, with here and there a
casualty, and here and there among the stars a new planetary birth, and
here and there a fresh disaster.

Before and after man's troubled life we saw other humanesque races rise
in scores and hundreds, of which a mere handful was destined to waken
beyond man's highest spiritual range, to play a part in the galactic
community of worlds. These we now saw from afar on their little
Earth-like planets, scattered among the huge drift of the star-streams,
struggling to master all those world-problems, social and spiritual,
which man in our "modern" era is for the first time confronting.
Similarly, we saw again the many other kinds of races, nautiloid,
submarine, avian, composite, and the rare symbiotics, and still rarer
plant-like beings. And of every kind only a few, if any, won through to
Utopia, and took part in the great communal enterprise of worlds. The
rest fell by the way.

From our remote look-out we now saw in one of the islanded sub-galaxies
the triumph of the Symbiotics. Here at last was the germ of a true
community of worlds. Presently the stars of this islet-universe began to
be girdled with living pearls, till the whole sub-galaxy was alive with
worlds. Meanwhile in the main system arose that flagrant and contagious
insanity of empire, which we had already watched in detail. But what had
before appeared as a war of titans, in which great worlds maneuvered in
space with inconceivable speed, and destroyed one another's populations
in holocausts, was now seen as the jerky motion of a few microscopic
sparks, a few luminous animalcules, surrounded by the indifferent
stellar hosts.

Presently, however, we saw a star blaze up and destroy its planets. The
Empires had murdered something nobler than themselves. There was a
second murder, and a third. Then, under the influence of the sub-galaxy,
the imperial madness faded, and empire crumbled. And soon our fatigued
attention was held by the irresistible coming of Utopia throughout the
galaxy. This was visible to us chiefly as a steady increase of
artificial planets. Star after star blossomed with orbit after crowded
orbit of these vital jewels, these blooms pregnant with the spirit.
Constellation after constellation, the whole galaxy became visibly alive
with myriads of worlds. Each world, peopled with its unique,
multitudinous race of sensitive individual intelligences united in true
community, was itself a living thing, possessed of a common spirit. And
each system of many populous orbits was itself a communal being. And the
whole galaxy, knit in a single telepathic mesh, was a single intelligent
and ardent being, the common spirit, the "I," of all its countless,
diverse, and ephemeral individuals. This whole vast community looked now
beyond itself toward its fellow galaxies. Resolved to pursue the
adventure of life and of spirit in the cosmical, the widest of all
spheres, it was in constant telepathic communication with its fellows;
and at the same time, conceiving all kinds of strange practical
ambitions, it began to avail itself of the energies of its stars upon a
scale hitherto unimagined. Not only was every solar system now
surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar
energy for intelligent use, so that the whole galaxy was dimmed, but
many stars that were not suited to be suns were disintegrated, and
rifled of their prodigious stores of sub-atomic energy.

Suddenly our attention was held by an event which even at a distance was
visibly incompatible with Utopia. A star encircled by planets exploded,
destroying all its rings of worlds, and sinking afterwards into wan
exhaustion. Another and another, and yet others in different regions of
the galaxy, did likewise.

To inquire into the cause of these startling disasters we once more, by
an act of volition, dispersed ourselves to our stations among the many
worlds.



CHAPTER XI

STARS AND VERMIN

1. THE MANY GALAXIES

THE Galactic Society of Worlds had sought to perfect its communication
with other galaxies. The simpler medium of contact was telepathic; but
it seemed desirable to reach out physically also across the huge void
between this galaxy and the next. It was in the attempt to send envoys
on such voyages that the Society of Worlds brought upon itself the
epidemic of exploding stars.

Before describing this series of disasters I shall say something of the
conditions of other galaxies as they were known to us through our
participation in the experience of our own galaxy.

Telepathic exploration had long ago revealed that at least in some other
galaxies there existed minded worlds. And now, after long experiment,
the worlds of our galaxy, working for this purpose as a single galactic
mind, had attained much more detailed knowledge of the cosmos as a
whole. This had proved difficult because of an unsuspected parochialism
in the mental attitude of the worlds of each galaxy. In the basic
physical and biological constitutions of the galaxies there was no
far-reaching difference. In each there was a diversity of races of the
same general types as those of our own galaxy. But upon the cultural
plane the trend of development in each galactic society had produced
important mental idiosyncrasies, often so deep-seated as to be
unwitting. Thus it was very difficult at first for the developed
galaxies to make contact with one another. Our own galactic culture had
been dominated by the culture of the Symbiotics, which had developed in
the exceptionally happy sub-galaxy. In spite of the horrors of the
imperial age, ours was therefore a culture having a certain blandness
which made telepathic intercourse with more tragic galaxies difficult to
establish. Further, the detail of basic concepts and values accepted by
our own galactic society was also largely a development of the marine
culture that had dominated the sub-galaxy. Though the "continental"
population of worlds was mainly humanesque, its native cultures had been
profoundly influenced by the oceanic mentality. And since this oceanic
mental texture was rare amongst galactic societies, our galaxy was
rather more isolated than most.

After long and patient work, however, our galactic society succeeded in
forming a fairly complete survey of the cosmical population of galaxies.
It was discovered that at this time the many galaxies were in many
stages of mental, as of physical, development. Many very young systems,
in which nebular matter still predominated over stars, contained as yet
no planets. In others, though already there was a sprinkling of the
vital grains, life had nowhere reached the human level. Some galaxies,
though physically mature, were wholly barren of planetary systems,
either through sheer accident or by reason of the exceptionally sparse
distribution of their stars. In several, out of the millions of
galaxies, a single intelligent world had spread its race and its culture
throughout the galaxy, organizing the whole as an egg's germ organizes
into itself the whole substance of the egg. In these galaxies, very
naturally, the galactic culture had been based on the assumption that
from the one single germ the whole cosmos was to be peopled. When
telepathic intercourse with other galaxies was at last stumbled upon,
its effect was at first utterly bewildering. There were not a few
galaxies in which two or more such germs had developed independently and
finally come into contact. Sometimes the result was symbiosis, sometimes
endless strife or even mutual destruction. By far the commonest type of
of galactic society was that in which many systems of worlds had
developed independently, come into conflict, slaughtered one another,
produced vast federations and empires, plunged again and again into
social chaos, and struggled between whiles haltingly toward galactic
Utopia. A few had already attained that goal, though seared with
bitterness. More were still floundering. Many were so undermined by war
that there seemed little prospect of recovery. To such a type our own
galaxy would have belonged had it not been for the good fortune of the
Symbiotics.

To this account of the galactic survey two points should be added.
First, there were certain very advanced galactic societies which had
been telepathic spectators of all history in our own and all other
galaxies. Secondly, in not a few galaxies the stars had recently begun
unexpectedly exploding and destroying their girdles of worlds.

2. DISASTER IN OUR GALAXY

While our Galactic Society of Worlds was perfecting its telepathic
vision, and at the same time improving its own social and material
structure, the unexpected disasters which we had already observed from
afar forced it to attend strictly to the task of preserving the lives of
its constituent worlds.

The occasion of the first accident was an attempt to detach a star from
its natural course and direct it upon an inter-galactic voyage.
Telepathic intercourse with the nearest of the foreign galaxies was
fairly reliable, but, as I have said, it had been decided that a
physical exchange of worlds would be invaluable for mutual understanding
and cooperation. Plans were therefore made for projecting several stars
with their attendant systems of worlds across the vast ocean of space
that separated the two floating islets of civilization. The voyage would
of course be thousands of times longer than anything hitherto attempted.
At its completion many more of the stars in each galaxy would already
have ceased to shine, and the end of all life in the cosmos would
already be in sight. Yet it was felt that the enterprise of linking
galaxy with galaxy throughout the cosmos in this manner would be well
justified by the great increase of mutual insight which it would produce
in the galaxies in the last and most difficult phase of cosmical life.

After prodigies of experiment and calculation the first attempt at
intergalactic voyaging was undertaken. A certain star, barren of
planets, was used as a reservoir of energy, both normal and sub-atomic.
By cunning devices far beyond my comprehension this fund of power was
directed upon a chosen star with planetary girdles in such a way as to
sway it gradually in the direction of the foreign galaxy. The task of
securing that its planets should remain in their true orbits during this
operation, and during the subsequent acceleration of their sun, was very
delicate, but was accomplished without the destruction of more than a
dozen worlds. Unfortunately, just as the star was correctly aimed and
was beginning to gather speed, it exploded. A sphere of incandescent
material, expanding from the sun with incredible speed, swallowed up and
destroyed every girdle of planets. The star then subsided.

Throughout the history of the galaxy such sudden effulgence and
quiescence of a star had been a very common occurrence. It was known to
consist of an explosion of sub-atomic energy from the star's superficial
layers. This was caused sometimes by the impact of some small wandering
body, often no bigger than an asteroid; sometimes by factors in the
star's own physical evolution. In either case the Galactic Society of
Worlds could predict the event with great accuracy and take steps either
to divert the intruding body or to remove the threatened world-system
out of harm's way. But this particular disaster was entirely unforeseen.
No cause could be assigned to it. It infringed the established laws of
physics.

While the Society of Worlds was trying to understand what had happened,
another star exploded. This was the sun of one of the leading
world-systems. Attempts had recently been made to increase this star's
output of radiation, and it was thought that the disaster must have been
due to these experiments. After a while another and yet other stars
exploded, destroying all their worlds. In several cases attempts had
recently been made either to alter the star's course or tap its stored
energy.

The trouble spread. System after system of worlds was destroyed. All
tampering with stars had now been abandoned, yet the epidemic of "novae"
continued, even increased. In every case the exploding star was a sun
with a planetary system.

The normal "nova" phase, the explosion caused not by collision but by
internal forces, was known to occur only in a star's youth or early
maturity, and seldom, if ever, more often than once in each star's
career. In this late phase of the galaxy far more stars had passed the
natural "nova" stage than not. It would be possible, therefore, to move
whole systems of worlds from the dangerous younger stars and settle them
in close orbits round the older luminaries. With immense expense of
energy this operation was several times performed. Heroic plans were
made for the transformation of the whole galactic society by migration
to the safe stars, and the euthanasia of the excess population of worlds
that could not be thus accommodated.

While this plan was being carried out, it was defeated by a new series of
disasters. Stars that had already exploded developed a power of
exploding again and again whenever they were girdled with planets.
Moreover, yet another kind of disaster now began to occur. Very aged
stars, which had long since passed the period when explosion was
possible, began to behave in an astounding manner. A plume of
incandescent substance would issue from the photosphere, and this, as
the star revolved, would sweep outwards as a trailing whirl. Sometimes
this fiery proboscis calcined the surface of every planet in every
orbit, killing all its life. Sometimes, if the sweep of the proboscis
was not quite in the plane of the planetary orbits, a number of planets
escaped. But in many cases in which the destruction was not at first
complete the proboscis gradually brought itself more accurately into the
planetary plane and destroyed the remaining worlds.

It soon became clear that, if the two kinds of stellar activity remained
unchecked, civilization would be undermined and perhaps life
exterminated throughout the galaxy. Astronomical knowledge provided no
clue whatever to the problem. The theory of stellar evolutions had
seemed perfect, but it had no place for these singular events. Meanwhile
the Society of Worlds had set about the task of artificially exploding
all stars that had not yet spontaneously passed through the "nova"
phase. It was hoped thus to render them comparatively safe, and then to
use them once more as suns. But now that all kinds of stars had become
equally dangerous, this work was abandoned. Instead, arrangements were
made to procure the radiation necessary to life from the stars that had
ceased to shine. Controlled disintegration of their atoms would turn
them into satisfactory suns, at least for a while. Unfortunately the
epidemic of fiery plumes was increasing rapidly. System by system, the
living worlds were being swept out of existence. Desperate research hit
at last on a method of diverting the fiery tentacle away from the plane
of the ecliptic. This process was far from reliable. Moreover, if it
succeeded, the sun would sooner or later project another filament.

The state of the galaxy was being very rapidly changed. Hitherto there
had been an incalculable wealth of stellar energy, but this energy was
now being shed like rain from a thunder-cloud. Though a single explosion
did not seriously affect the vigor of a star, repetitions became more
exhausting as they increased in number. Many young stars had been
reduced to decrepitude. The great majority of the stellar population had
now passed their prime; multitudes were mere glowing coals or lightless
ash. The minded worlds, also, were much reduced in number, for in spite
of all ingenious measures of defense, casualties were still heavy. This
reduction of the population of the worlds was the more serious because
in its prime the Galactic Society of Worlds had been so highly
organized. In some ways it was less like a society than a brain. The
disaster had almost blotted out certain higher "brain-centers" and
greatly reduced the vitality of all. It had also seriously impaired
telepathic intercourse between the systems of worlds by forcing each
system to concentrate on its own urgent physical problem of defense
against the attacks of its own sun. The communal mind of the Society of
Worlds now ceased to operate.

The emotional attitude of the worlds had also changed. The fervor for
the establishment of cosmical Utopia had vanished, and with it the
fervor for the completion of the spirit's adventure by the fulfilment of
knowledge and creative capacity. Now that extermination seemed
inevitable within a comparatively short time, there was an increasing
will to meet fate with religious peace. The desire to realize the far
cosmical goal, formerly the supreme motive of all awakened worlds, now
seemed to be extravagant, even impious. How should the little creatures,
the awakened worlds, reach out to knowledge of the whole cosmos, and of
the divine. Instead they must play their own part in the drama, and
appreciate their own tragic end with godlike detachment and relish.

This mood of exultant resignation, appropriate to unavoidable disaster,
quickly changed under the influence of a new discovery. In certain
quarters there had long been a suspicion that the irregular activity of
the stars was not merely automatic but purposeful, in fact that the
stars were alive, and were striving to rid themselves of the pest of
planets. This possibility had at first seemed too fantastic; but it
gradually became obvious that the destruction of a star's planetary
system was the end which determined the duration of the irregular
action. Of course it was possible that in some unexplained but purely
mechanical way the presence of many planetary girdles created the
explosion, or the fiery limb. Astronomical physics could suggest no
mechanism whatever which could have this result. Telepathic research was
now undertaken in order to test the theory of stellar consciousness, and
if possible to set up communication with the minded stars. This venture
was at first completely barren. The worlds had not the slightest
knowledge of the right method of approach to minds which, if they
existed at all, must be inconceivably different from their own. It
seemed all too probable that no factors in the mentality of the minded
worlds were sufficiently akin to the stellar mentality to form a means
of contact. Though the worlds used their imaginative powers as best they
might, though they explored, so to speak, every subterranean passage and
gallery of their own mentality, tapping everywhere in the hope of
answer, they received none. The theory of stellar purposefulness began
to seem incredible. Once more the worlds began to turn to the
consolation, nay the joy, of acceptance. Nevertheless, a few
world-systems that had specialized in psychological technique persisted
in their researches, confident that, if only they could communicate with
the stars, some kind of mutual understanding and concord could be
brought about between the two great orders of minds in the galaxy. At
long last the desired contact with the stellar minds was effected. It
came not through the unaided efforts of the minded worlds of our galaxy
but partly through the mediation of another galaxy where already the
worlds and the stars had begun to realize one another.

Even to the minds of fully awakened worlds the stellar mentality was
almost too alien to be conceived at all. To me, the little human
individual, all that is most distinctive in it is now quite
incomprehensible. Nevertheless, its simpler aspect I must now try to
summarize as best I may, since it is essential to my story. The minded
worlds made their first contact with the stars on the higher planes of
stellar experience, but I shall not follow the chronological order of
their discoveries. Instead I shall begin with aspects of the stellar
nature which were haltingly inferred only after intercourse of a sort
had become fairly well established. It is in terms of stellar biology
and physiology that the reader may most easily conceive something of the
mental life of stars.

3. STARS

Stars are best regarded as living organisms, but organisms which are
physiologically and psychologically of a very peculiar kind. The outer
and middle layers of a mature star apparently consist of "tissues" woven
of currents of incandescent gases. These gaseous tissues live and
maintain the stellar consciousness by intercepting part of the immense
flood of energy that wells from the congested and furiously active
interior of the star. The innermost of the vital layers must be a kind
of digestive apparatus which transmutes the crude radiation into forms
required for the maintenance of the star's life. Outside this digestive
area lies some sort of coordinating layer, which may be thought of as
the star's brain. The outermost layers, including the corona, respond to
the excessively faint stimuli of the star's cosmical environment, to
light from neighboring stars, to cosmic rays, to the impact of meteors,
to tidal stresses caused by the gravitational influence of planets or of
other stars. These influences could not, of course, produce any clear
impression but for a strange tissue of gaseous sense organs, which
discriminate between them in respect of quality and direction, and
transmit information to the correlating "brain" layer.

The sense experience of a star, though so foreign to us, proved after
all fairly intelligible. It was not excessively difficult for us to
enter telepathically into the star's perception of the gentle
titillations, strokings, pluckings, and scintillations that came to it
from the galactic environment. It was strange that, though the star's
own body was actually in a state of extreme brilliance, none of this
outward-flowing light took effect upon its sense organs. Only the faint
incoming light of other stars was seen. This afforded the perception of
a surrounding heaven of flashing constellations, which were set not in
blackness but in blackness tinged with the humanly inconceivable color
of the cosmic rays. The stars themselves were seen colored according to
their style and age. But though the sense perception of the stars was
fairly intelligible to us, the motor side of stellar life was at first
quite incomprehensible. We had to accustom ourselves to an entirely new
way of regarding physical events. For the normal voluntary motor
activity of a star appears to be no other than the star's normal
physical movement studied by our science, movement in relation to other
stars and the galaxy as a whole. A star must be thought of as vaguely
aware of the gravitational influence of the whole galaxy, and more
precisely aware of the "pull" of its near neighbors; though of course
their influence would generally be far too slight to be detected by
human instruments. To these influences the star responds by voluntary
movement, which to the astronomers of the little minded worlds seems
purely mechanical; but the star itself unquestioningly and rightly feels
this movement to be the freely willed expression of its own
psychological nature. Such at least was the almost incredible conclusion
forced on us by the research carried out by the Galactic Society of
Worlds.

Thus the normal experience of a star appears to consist in perception of
its cosmical environment, along with continuous voluntary changes within
its own body and in its position in relation to other stars. This change
of position consists, of course, in rotation and passage. The star's
motor life is thus to be thought of almost as a life of dance, or of
figure-skating, executed with perfect skill according to an ideal
principle which emerges into consciousness from the depths of the
stellar nature and becomes clearer as the star's mind matures.

This ideal principle cannot be conceived by men save as it is manifested
in practice as the well-known physical principle of "least action," or
the pursuit of that course which in all the gravitational and other
conditions is the least extravagant. The star itself, by means of its
purchase on the electromagnetic field of the cosmos, apparently wills
and executes this ideal course with all the attention and delicacy of
response which a motorist exercises in threading his way through traffic
on a winding road, or a ballet-dancer in performing the most intricate
movements with the greatest economy of effort. Almost certainly, the
star's whole physical behavior is normally experienced as a blissful, an
ecstatic, an ever successful pursuit of formal beauty. This the minded
worlds were able to discover through their own most formalistic
aesthetic experience. In fact it was through this experience that they
first made contact with stellar minds. But the actual perception of the
aesthetic (or religious?) rightness of the mysterious canon, which the
stars so earnestly accepted, remained far beyond the mental range of the
minded worlds. They had to take it, so to speak, on trust. Clearly this
aesthetic canon was in some way symbolical of some spiritual intuition
that remained occult to the minded worlds.

The life of the individual star is not only a life of physical movement.
It is also undoubtedly in some sense a cultural and a spiritual life. In
some manner each star is aware of its fellow stars as conscious beings.
This mutual awareness is probably intuitive and telepathic, though
presumably it is also constantly supported by inference from observation
of the behavior of others. From the psychological relations of star with
star sprang a whole world of social experiences which were so alien to
the minded worlds that almost nothing can be said of them.

There is perhaps some reason for believing that the free behavior of the
individual star is determined not only by the austere canons of the
dance but also by the social will to cooperate with others. Certainly
the relation between stars is perfectly social. It reminded me of the
relation between the performers in an orchestra, but an orchestra
composed of persons wholly intent on the common task. Possibly, but not
certainly, each star, executing its particular theme, is moved not only
by the pure aesthetic or religious motive but also by a will to afford
its partners every legitimate opportunity for self-expression. If so,
the life of each star is experienced not only as the perfect execution
of formal beauty but also as the perfect expression of love. It would,
however, be unwise to attribute affection and comradeship to the stars
in any human sense. The most that can safely be said, is that it would
probably be more false to deny them affection for one another than to
assert that they were, indeed, capable of love. Telepathic research
suggested that the experience of the stars was through and through of a
different texture from that of the minded worlds. Even to attribute to
them thought or desire of any kind is probably grossly anthropomorphic,
but it is impossible to speak of their experience in any other terms.

The mental life of a star is almost certainly a progress from an obscure
infantile mentality to the discriminate consciousness of maturity. All
stars, young and old, are mentally "angelic," in that they all freely
and joyfully will the "good will," the pattern of right action so far as
it is revealed to them; but the great tenuous young stars, though they
perfectly execute their part in the galactic dance, would seem to be in
some manner spiritually naive or childlike in comparison with their more
experienced elders. Thus, though there is normally no such thing as sin
among the stars, no deliberate choice of the course known to be wrong
for the sake of some end known to be irrelevant, there is ignorance, and
consequent aberration from the pattern of the ideal as revealed to stars
of somewhat maturer mentality. But this aberration on the part of the
young is itself apparently accepted by the most awakened class of the
stars as itself a desirable factor in the dance pattern of the galaxy.
From the point of view of natural science, as known to the minded
worlds, the behavior of young stars is of course always an exact
expression of their youthful nature; and the behavior of the elder stars
an expression of their nature. But, most surprisingly, the physical
nature of a star at any stage of its growth is in part an expression of
the telepathic influence of other stars. This fact can never be detected
by the pure physics of any epoch. Unwittingly scientists derive the
inductive physical laws of stellar evolution from data which are
themselves an expression not only of normal physical influences but also
of the unsuspected psychical influence of star on star.

In early ages of the cosmos the first "generation" of stars had been
obliged to find their way unhelped from infancy to maturity; but later
"generations" were in some manner guided by the experience of their
elders so that they should pass more quickly and more thoroughly from
the obscure to the fully lucid consciousness of themselves as spirits,
and of the spiritual universe in which they dwelt. Almost certainly, the
latest stars to condense out of the primeval nebula advanced (or will
advance) more rapidly than their elders had done; and throughout the
stellar host it was believed that in due season the youngest stars, when
they had attained maturity, would pass far beyond the loftiest spirit
insight of their seniors. There is good reason to say that the two
over-mastering desires of all stars are the desire to execute perfectly
their part in the communal dance, and the desire to press forward to the
attainment of full insight into the nature of the cosmos. The latter
desire was the factor in stellar mentality which was most comprehensible
to the minded worlds. The climax of a star's life occurs when it has
passed through the long period of its youth, during which it is what
human astronomers call a "red giant." At the close of this period it
shrinks rapidly into the dwarf state in which our sun now is. This
physical cataclysm seems to be accompanied by far-reaching mental
changes. Henceforth, though the star plays a less dashing part in the
dance-rhythms of the galaxy, it is perhaps more clearly and
penetratingly conscious. It is interested less in the ritual of the
stellar dance, more in its supposed spiritual significance. After this
very long phase of physical maturity there comes another crisis. The
star shrinks into the minute and the inconceivably dense condition in
which our astronomers call it a "white dwarf." Its mentality in the
actual crisis proved almost impervious to the research of the minded
worlds. It appeared to be a crisis of despair and of reorientated hope.
Henceforth the stellar mind presents increasingly a strain of baffling
and even terrifying negativity, an icy, an almost cynical aloofness,
which, we suspected, was but the obverse of some dread rapture hidden
from us. However that may be, the aged star still continues meticulously
to fulfil its part in the dance, but its mood is deeply changed. The
aesthetic fervors of youth, the more serene but earnest will of
maturity, all maturity's devotion to the active pursuit of wisdom, now
fall away. Perhaps the star is henceforth content with its achievement,
such as it is, and pleased simply to enjoy the surrounding universe with
such detachment and insight as it has attained. Perhaps; but the minded
worlds were never able to ascertain whether the aged stellar minded
eluded their comprehension through sheer superiority of achievement or
through some obscure disorder of the spirit. In this state of old age a
star remains for a very long period, gradually losing energy, and
mentally withdrawing into itself, until it sinks into an impenetrable
trance of senility. Finally its light is extinguished and its tissues
disintegrate in death. Henceforth it continues to sweep through space,
but it does so unconsciously, and in a manner repugnant to its still
conscious fellows.

Such, very roughly stated, would seem to be the normal life of the
average star. But there are many varieties within the general type. For
stars vary in original size and in composition, and probably in
psychological impact upon their neighbors. One of the commonest of the
eccentric types is the double star, two mighty globes of fire waltzing
through space together, in some cases almost in contact. Like all
stellar relations, these partnerships are perfect, are angelic. Yet it
is impossible to be certain whether the members experience anything
which could properly be called a sentiment of personal love, or whether
they regard one another solely as partners in a common task. Research
undoubtedly suggested that the two beings did indeed move on their
winding courses in some kind of mutual delight, and delight of close
cooperation in the measures of the galaxy. But love? It is impossible to
say. In due season, with the loss of momentum, the two stars come into
actual contact. Then, seemingly in an agonizing blaze of joy and pain,
they merge. After a period of unconsciousness, the great new star
generates new living tissues, and takes its place among the angelic
company. The strange Cepheid variables proved the most baffling of all
the stellar kinds. It seems that these and other variables of much
longer period alternate mentally between fervor and quietism, in harmony
with their physical rhythm. More than this it is impossible to say.

One event, which happens only to a small minority of the stars in the
course of their dance-life, is apparently of great psychological
importance. This is the close approach of two or perhaps three stars to
one another, and the consequent projection of a filament from one toward
another. In the moment of this "moth kiss," before the disintegration of
the filament and the birth of planets, each star probably experiences an
intense but humanly unintelligible physical ecstasy. Apparently the
stars which have been through this experience are supposed to have
acquired a peculiarly vivid apprehension of the unity of body and
spirit. The "virgin" stars, however, though unblessed by this wonderful
adventure, seem to have no desire to infringe the sacred canons of the
dance in order to contrive opportunities for such encounters. Each one
of them is angelically content to play its allotted part, and to observe
the ecstasy of those that fate has favored. To describe the mentality of
stars is of course to describe the unintelligible by means of
intelligible but falsifying human metaphors. This tendency is
particularly serious in telling of the dramatic relations between the
stars and the minded worlds, for under the stress of these relations the
stars seem to have experienced for the first time emotions superficially
like human emotions. So long as the stellar community was immune from
interference by the minded worlds, every member of it behaved with
perfect rectitude and had perfect bliss in the perfect expression of its
own nature and of the common spirit. Even senility and death were
accepted with calm, for they were universally seen to be involved in the
pattern of existence; and what every star desired was not immortality,
whether for itself or for the community, but the perfect fruition of
stellar nature. But when at last the minded worlds, the planets, began
to interfere appreciably with stellar energy and motion, a new and
terrible and incomprehensible thing presumably entered into the
experiences of the stars. The stricken ones found themselves caught in a
distracting mental conflict. Through some cause which they themselves
could not detect, they not merely erred but willed to err. In fact, they
sinned. Even while they still adored the right, they chose the wrong.

I said that the trouble was unprecedented. This is not strictly true.
Something not wholly unlike this public shame seems to have occurred in
the private experience of nearly every star. But each sufferer succeeded
in keeping his shame secret until either with familiarity it became
tolerable or else its source was overcome. It was indeed surprising that
beings whose nature was in many ways so alien and unintelligible should
be in this one respect at least so startlingly "human."

In the outer layers of young stars life nearly always appears not only
in the normal manner but also in the form of parasites, minute
independent organisms of fire, often no bigger than a cloud in the
terrestrial air, but sometimes as large as the Earth itself. These
"salamanders" either feed upon the welling energies of the star in the
same manner as the star's own organic tissues feed, or simply prey upon
those tissues themselves. Here as elsewhere the laws of biological
evolution come into force, and in time there may appear races of
intelligent flame-like beings. Even when the salamandrian life does not
reach this level, its effect on the star's tissues may become evident to
the star as a disease of its skin and sense organs, or even of its
deeper tissues. It then experiences emotions not wholly unlike human
fright and shame, and anxiously and most humanly guards its secret from
the telepathic reach of its fellows.

The salamandrian races have never been able to gain mastery over their
fiery worlds. Many of them succumb, soon or late, either to some natural
disaster or to internecine strife or to the self-cleansing activities of
their mighty host. Many others survive, but in a relatively harmless
state, troubling their stars only with a mild irritation, and a faint
shade of insincerity in all their dealings with one another. In the
public culture of the stars the salamandrian pest was completely
ignored. Each star believed itself to be the only sufferer and the only
sinner in the galaxy. One indirect effect the pest did have on stellar
thought. It introduced the idea of purity. Each star prized the
perfection of the stellar community all the more by reason of its own
secret experience of impurity.

When the minded planets began to tamper seriously with stellar energy
and stellar orbits, the effect was not a private shame but a public
scandal. It was patent to all observers that the culprit had violated
the canons of the dance. The first aberrations were greeted with
bewilderment and horror. Amongst the hosts of the virgin stars it was
whispered that if the result of the much prized interstellar contacts,
whence the natural planets had sprung, was in the end this shameful
irregularity, probably the original experience itself had also been
sinful. The erring stars protested that they were not sinners, but
victims of some unknown influence from the grains which revolved about
them. Yet secretly they doubted themselves. Had they long ago, in the
ecstatic sweep of star to star, after all infringed the canon of the
dance? They suspected, moreover, that in respect of the irregularities
which were now creating this public scandal, they could, if they had
willed firmly enough, have contained themselves, and preserved their
true courses in spite of the irritants that had affected them.

Meanwhile the power of the minded planets increased. Suns were boldly
steered to suit the purposes of their parasites. To the stellar
population it seemed, of course, that these erring stars were dangerous
lunatics. The crisis came, as I have already said, when the worlds
projected their first messenger toward the neighboring galaxy. The
hurtling star, terrified at its own maniac behavior, took the only
retaliation that was known to it. It exploded into the "nova" state, and
successfully destroyed its planets. From the orthodox stellar point of
view this act was a deadly sin; for it was an impious interference with
the divinely appointed order of a star's life. But it secured the
desired end, and was soon copied by other desperate stars. Then followed
that age of horror which I have already described from the point of view
of the Society of Worlds. From the stellar point of view it was no less
terrible, for the condition of the stellar society soon became
desperate. Gone was the perfection and beatitude of former days. "The
City of God" had degenerated into a place of hatred, recrimination and
despair. Hosts of the younger stars had become premature and embittered
dwarfs, while the elders had mostly grown senile. The dance pattern had
fallen into chaos. The old passion for the canons of the dance remained,
but the conception of the canons was obscured. Spiritual life had
succumbed to the necessity of urgent action. The passion for the
progress of insight into the nature of the cosmos also remained, but
insight itself was obscured. Moreover, the former naive confidence,
common to young and mature alike, the certainty that the cosmos was
perfect and that the power behind it was righteous, had given place to
blank despair.

4. GALACTIC SYMBIOSIS

Such was the state of affairs when the minded worlds first attempted to
make telepathic contact with the minded stars. I need not tell the
stages by which mere contact was developed into a clumsy and precarious
kind of communication. In time the stars must have begun to realize that
they were at grips, not with mere physical forces, nor yet with fiends,
but with beings whose nature, though so profoundly alien, was at bottom
identical with their own. Our telepathic research obscurely sensed the
amazement which spread throughout the stellar population. Two opinions,
two policies, two parties seem to have gradually emerged.

One of these parties was convinced that the pretensions of the minded
planets must be false, that beings whose history was compact of sin and
strife and slaughter must be essentially diabolic, and that to parley
with them was to court disaster. This party, at first in a majority,
urged that the war should be continued till every planet had been
destroyed.

The minority party clamored for peace. The planets, they affirmed, were
seeking in their own way the very same goal as the stars. It was even
suggested that these minute beings, with their more varied experience
and their long acquaintance with evil, might have certain kinds of
insight which the stars, those fallen angels, lacked. Might not the two
sorts of being create together a glorious symbiotic society, and achieve
together the end that was most dear to both, namely the full awakening
of the spirit? It was a long while before the majority would listen to
this counsel. Destruction continued. The precious energies of the galaxy
were squandered. System after system of worlds was destroyed. Star after
star sank into exhaustion and stupor. Meanwhile the Society of Worlds
maintained a pacific attitude. No more stellar energy was tapped. No
more stellar orbits were altered. No stars were artificially exploded.

Stellar opinion began to change. The crusade of extermination relaxed,
and was abandoned. There followed a period of "isolationism" in which
the stars, intent on repairing their shattered society, left their
former enemies alone. Gradually a fumbling attempt at fraternizing began
between the planets and their suns. The two kinds of beings, though so
alien that they could not at all comprehend each other's idiosyncrasies,
were too lucid for mere tribal passions. They resolved to overcome all
obstacles and enter into some kind of community. Soon it was the desire
of every star to be girdled with artificial planets and enter into some
sort of "sympsychic" partnership with its encircling companions. For it
was by now clear to the stars that the "vermin" had much to give them.
The experience of the two orders of beings was in many ways
complementary. The stars retained still the tenor of the angelic wisdom
of their golden age. The planets excelled in the analytic, the
microscopic, and in that charity which was bred in them by knowledge of
their own weak and suffering forbears. To the stars, moreover, it was
perplexing that their minute companions could accept not merely with
resignation but with joy a cosmos which evidently was seamed with evil.

In due season a symbiotic society of stars and planetary systems
embraced the whole galaxy. But it was at first a wounded society, and
ever after an impoverished galaxy. Few only of its million million stars
were still in their prime. Every possible sun was now girdled with
planets. Many dead stars were stimulated to disintegrate their atoms so
as to provide artificial suns. Others were used in a more economical
manner. Special races of intelligent organisms were bred or synthetized
to inhabit the surfaces of these great worlds. Very soon, upon a
thousand stars that once had blazed, teeming populations of innumerable
types maintained an austere civilization. These subsisted on the
volcanic energies of their huge worlds. Minute, artificially contrived
worm-like creatures, they crept laboriously over the plains where
oppressive gravitation allowed not so much as a stone to project above
the general level. So violent, indeed, was gravitation, that even the
little bodies of these worms might be shattered by a fall of half an
inch. Save for artificial lighting, the inhabitants of the stellar
worlds lived in eternal darkness, mitigated only by the starlight, the
glow of volcanic eruption, and the phosphorescence of their own bodies.
Their subterranean borings led down to the vast photosynthesis stations
which converted the star's imprisoned energy for the uses of life and of
mind. Intelligence in these gigantic worlds was of course a function not
of the separate individual but of the minded swarm. Like the insectoids,
these little creatures, when isolated from the swarm, were mere
instinctive animals, actuated wholly by the gregarious craving to return
to the swarm.

The need to people the dead stars would not have arisen had not the war
reduced the number of minded planets and the number of suns available
for new planetary systems dangerously near the minimum required to
maintain the communal life in full diversity. The Society of Worlds had
been a delicately organized unity in which each element had a special
function. It was therefore necessary, since the lost members could not
be repeated, to produce new worlds to function in their places at least
approximately.

Gradually the symbiotic society overcame the immense difficulties of
reorganization, and began to turn its attention to the pursuit of that
purpose which is the ultimate purpose of all awakened minds, the aim
which they inevitably and gladly espouse because it is involved in their
deepest nature. Henceforth the symbiotic society gave all its best
attention to the further awakening of the spirit.

But this purpose, which formerly the angelic company of the stars and
the ambitious Society of Worlds had each hoped to accomplish in relation
not merely to the galaxy but to the cosmos, was now regarded more
humbly. Both stars and worlds recognized that not merely the home galaxy
but the cosmical swarm of galaxies was nearing its end. Physical energy,
once a seemingly inexhaustible fund, was becoming less and less
available for the maintenance of life. It was spreading itself more and
more evenly over the whole cosmos. Only here and there and with
difficulty could the minded organisms intercept it in its collapse from
high to low potential. Very soon the universe would be physically
senile. All ambitious plans had therefore to be abandoned. No longer was
there any question of physical travel between the galaxies. Such
enterprises would use up too many of the pence out of the few pounds of
wealth that survived after the extravagance of former aeons. No longer
was there any unnecessary coming and going, even within the galaxy
itself. The worlds clung to their suns. The suns steadily cooled. And as
they cooled, the encircling worlds contracted their orbits for warmth's
sake.

But though the galaxy was physically impoverished, it was in many ways
Utopian. The symbiotic society of stars and worlds was perfectly
harmonious. Strife between the two kinds was a memory of the remote
past. Both were wholly loyal to the common purpose. They lived their
personal lives in zestful cooperation, friendly conflict, and mutual
interest. Each took part according to its capacity in the common task of
cosmical exploration and appreciation. The stars were now dying off more
rapidly than before, for the great host of the mature had become a great
host of aged white dwarfs. As they died, they bequeathed their bodies to
the service of the society, to be used either as reservoirs of
sub-atomic energy, or as artificial suns, or as worlds to be peopled by
intelligent populations of worms. Many a planetary system was now
centered around an artificial sun. Physically the substitution was
tolerable; but beings that had become mentally dependent on partnership
with a living star regarded a mere furnace with despondency. Foreseeing
the inevitable dissolution of the symbiosis throughout the galaxy, the
planets were now doing all in their power to absorb the angelic wisdom
of the stars. But after very few aeons the planets themselves had to
begin reducing their number. The myriad worlds could no longer all crowd
closely enough around their cooling suns. Soon the mental power of the
galaxy, which had hitherto been with difficulty maintained at its
highest pitch, must inevitably begin to wane.

Yet the temper of the galaxy was not sad but joyful. The symbiosis had
greatly improved the art of telepathic communion; and now at last the
many kinds of spirit which composed the galactic society were bound so
closely in mutual insight that there had emerged out of their harmonious
diversity a true galactic mind, whose mental reach surpassed that of the
stars and the worlds as far as these surpassed their own individuals.

The galactic mind, which was but the mind of each individual star and
world and minute organism in the worlds, enriched by all its fellows and
awakened to finer percipience, saw that it had but a short time to live.
Looking back through the ages of galactic history, down temporal vistas
crowded with teeming and diversified populations, the mind of our galaxy
saw that itself was the issue of untold strife and grief and hope
frustrated. It confronted all the tortured spirits of the past not with
pity or regret but with smiling content, such as a man may feel toward
his own childhood's tribulations. And it said, within the mind of each
one of all its members, "Their suffering, which to them seemed barren
evil, was the little price to be paid for my future coming. Right and
sweet and beautiful is the whole in which these things happen. For I, I
am the heaven in which all my myriad progenitors find recompense,
finding their heart's desire. For in the little time that is left me I
shall press on, with all my peers throughout the cosmos, to crown the
cosmos with perfect and joyful insight, and to salute the Maker of
Galaxies and Stars and Worlds with fitting praise."



CHAPTER XII

A STUNTED COSMICAL SPIRIT

WHEN at last our galaxy was able to make a full telepathic exploration
of the cosmos of galaxies it discovered that the state of life in the
cosmos was precarious. Very few of the galaxies were now in their youth;
most were already far past their prime. Throughout the cosmos the dead
and lightless stars far outnumbered the living and luminous. In many
galaxies the strife of stars and worlds had been even more disastrous
than in our own. Peace had been secured only after both sides had
degenerated past hope of recovery. In most of the younger galaxies,
however, this strife had not yet appeared; and efforts were already
being made by the most awakened galactic spirits to enlighten the
ignorant stellar and planetary societies about one another before they
should blunder into conflict.

The communal spirit of our galaxy now joined the little company of the
most awakened beings of the cosmos, the scattered band of advanced
galactic spirits, whose aim it was to create a real cosmical community,
with a single mind, the communal spirit of its myriad and diverse worlds
and individual intelligences. Thus it was hoped to acquire powers of
insight and of creativity impossible on the merely galactic plane.

With grave joy we, the cosmical explorers, who were already gathered up
into the communal mind of our own galaxy, now found ourselves in
intimate union with a score of other galactic minds. We, or rather I,
now experienced the slow drift of the galaxies much as a man feels the
swing of his own limbs. From my score of viewpoints I observed the
great snow-storm of many million galaxies, streaming and circling, and
ever withdrawing farther apart from one another with the relentless
"expansion" of space. But though the vastness of space was increasing in
relation to the size of galaxies and stars and worlds, to me, with my
composite, scattered body, space seemed no bigger than a great vaulted
hall.

My experience of time also had changed; for now, as on an earlier
occasion, the aeons had become for me as brief as minutes. I conceived
the whole life of the cosmos not as an immensely protracted and
leisurely passage from a remote and shadowy source to a glorious and a
still more remote eternity, but as a brief, a headlong and forlorn, race
against galloping time.

Confronted by the many backward galaxies, I seemed to myself to be a
lonely intelligence in a wilderness of barbarians and beasts. The
mystery, the futility, the horror of existence now bore down upon me
most cruelly. For to me, to the spirit of that little band of awakened
galaxies, surrounded by unawakened and doomed hordes in the last day of
the cosmos, there appeared no hope of any triumph elsewhere. For to me
the whole extent, seemingly, of existence was revealed. There could be
no "elsewhere." I knew with exactness the sum of cosmical matter. And
though the "expansion" of space was already sweeping most of the
galaxies apart more swiftly than light could bridge the gulf, telepathic
exploration still kept me in touch with the whole extent of the cosmos.
Many of my own members were physically divided from one another by the
insurmountable gulf created by the ceaseless "expansion"; but
telepathically they were still united.

I, the communal mind of a score of galaxies, seemed now to myself to be
the abortive and crippled mind of the cosmos itself. The myriad-fold
community that supported me ought surely to have expanded to embrace the
whole of existence. In the climax of cosmical history the fully awakened
mind of the cosmos ought surely to have won through to the fullness of
knowledge and of worship. But this was not to be. For even now, in the
late phase of the cosmos, when the physical potency was almost all
exhausted, I had reached only to a lowly state of spiritual growth. I
was mentally still adolescent, yet my cosmical body was already in
decay. I was the struggling embryo in the cosmical egg, and the yolk was
already in decay.

Looking back along the vistas of the aeons, I was impressed less by the
length of the journey that had led me to my present state than by its
haste and confusion, and even its brevity. Peering into the very
earliest of the ages, before the stars were born, before the nebulae
were formed from chaos, I still failed to see any clear source, but only
a mystery as obscure as any that confronts the little inhabitants of the
Earth.

Equally, when I tried to probe the depths of my own being, I found
impenetrable mystery. Though my self-consciousness was awakened to a
degree thrice removed beyond the self-consciousness of human beings,
namely from the simple individual to the world-mind, and from the
world-mind to the galactic mind, and thence to the abortively cosmical,
yet the depth of my nature was obscure.

Although my mind now gathered into itself all the wisdom of all worlds
in all ages, and though the life of my cosmical body was itself the life
of myriads of infinitely diverse worlds and myriads of infinitely
diverse individual creatures, and though the texture of my daily life
was one of joyful and creative enterprise, yet all this was as nothing.
For around lay the host of the unfulfilled galaxies; and my own flesh
was already grievously impoverished by the death of my stars; and the
aeons were slipping past with fatal speed. Soon the texture of my
cosmical brain must disintegrate. And then inevitably I must fall away
from my prized though imperfect state of lucidity, and descend, through
all the stages of the mind's second childhood, down to the cosmical
death.

It was very strange that I, who knew the whole extent of pace and time,
and counted the wandering stars like sheep, overlooking none, but I who
was the most awakened of all beings, I, the glory which myriads in all
ages had given their lives to establish, and myriads had worshipped,
should now look about me with the same overpowering awe, the same
abashed and tongue-tied worship as that which human travelers in the
desert feel under the stars.



CHAPTER XIII

THE BEGINNING AND THE END

1. BACK TO THE NEBULAE

WHILE the awakened galaxies were striving to make full use of the last
phase of their lucid consciousness, while I, the imperfect cosmical
mind, was thus striving, I began to have a strange new experience. I
seemed to be telepathically stumbling upon some being or beings of an
order that was at first quite incomprehensible to me.

At first I supposed that I had inadvertently come into touch with
subhuman beings in the primitive age of some natural planet, perhaps
with some very lowly amoeboid micro-organisms, floating in a primeval
sea. I was aware only of crude hungers of the body, such as the lust to
assimilate physical energy for the maintenance of life, the lust of
movement and of contact, the lust of light and warmth.

Impatiently I tried to dismiss this trivial irrelevance. But it
continued to haunt me, becoming more intrusive and more lucid. Gradually
it took on such an intensity of physical vigor and well-being, and such
a divine confidence, as was manifested by no spirits up and down the
ages since the stars began.

I need not tell of the stages by which I learned at last the meaning of
this experience. Gradually I discovered that I had made contact not with
micro-organisms, nor yet with worlds or stars or galactic minds, but
with the minds of the great nebulae before their substance had
disintegrated into stars to form the galaxies.

Presently I was able to follow their history from the time when they
first wakened, when they first existed as discrete clouds of gas, flying
apart after the explosive act of creation, even to the time when, with
the birth of the stellar hosts out of their substance, they sank into
senility and death.

In their earliest phase, when physically they were the most tenuous
clouds, their mentality was no more than a formless craving for action
and a sleepy perception of the infinitely slight congestion of their own
vacuous substance. I watched them condense into close-knit balls with
sharper contours, then into lentoid discs, featured with brighter
streams and darker chasms. As they condensed, each gained more unity,
became more organic in structure. Congestion, though so slight, brought
greater mutual influence to their atoms, which still were no more
closely packed, in relation to their size, than stars in space. Each
nebula was now a single great pool of faint radiation, a single system
of all-pervasive waves, spreading from atom to atom.

And now mentally these greatest of all megatheria, these amoeboid
titans, began to waken into a vague unity of experience. By human
standards, and even by the standards of the minded worlds and the stars,
the experience of the nebulae was incredibly slow-moving. For owing to
their prodigious size and the slow passage of the undulations to which
their consciousness was physically related, a thousand years was for
them an imperceptible instant. Periods such as men call geological,
containing the rise and fall of species after species, they experienced
as we experience the hours.

Each of the great nebulae was aware of its own lentoid body as a single
volume compact of tingling currents. Each craved fulfilment of its
organic potency, craved easement from the pressure of physical energy
welling softly within it, craved at the same time free expression of all
its powers of movement, craved also something more.

For though, both in physique and in mentality, these primordial beings
were strangely like the primeval micro-organisms of planetary life, they
were also remarkably different; or at least they manifested a character
which even I, the rudimentary cosmical mind, had overlooked in
micro-organisms. This was a will or predilection that I can only by
halting metaphor suggest.

Though even at their best these creatures were physically and
intellectually very simple, they were gifted with something which I am
forced to describe as a primitive but intense religious consciousness.
For they were ruled by two longings, both of which were essentially
religious. They desired, or rather they had a blind urge toward, union
with one another, and they had a blind passionate urge to be gathered up
once more into the source whence they had come.

The universe that they inhabited was of course a very simple, even a
poverty-stricken universe. It was also to them quite small. For each of
them the cosmos consisted of two things, the nebula's own almost
featureless body and the bodies of the other nebulae. In this early age
of the cosmos the nebulae were very close to one another, for the volume
of the cosmos was at this time small in relation to its parts, whether
nebulae or electrons. In that age the nebulae, which in man's day are
like birds at large in the sky, were confined, as it were, within a
narrow aviary. Thus each exercised an appreciable influence on its
fellows. And as each became more organized, more of a coherent physical
unity, it distinguished more readily between its native wave-pattern and
the irregularities which its neighbors' influence imposed upon that
pattern. And by a native propensity implanted in it at the time of its
emergence from the common ancestral cloud, it interpreted this influence
to mean the presence of other minded nebulae.

Thus the nebulae in their prime were vaguely but intensely aware of one
another as distinct beings. They were aware of one another; but their
communication with each other was very meager and very slow. As
prisoners confined in separate cells give one another a sense of
companionship by tapping on their cell walls, and may even in time work
out a crude system of signals, so the nebulae revealed to one another
their kinship by exercising gravitational stress upon one another, and
by long-drawn-out pulsations of their light. Even in the early phase of
their existence, when the nebulae were very close to one another, a
message would take many thousands of years to spell itself out from
beginning to end, and many millions of years to reach its destination.
When the nebulae were at their prime, the whole cosmos reverberated with
their talk.

In the earliest phase of all, when these huge creatures were still very
close to one another and also immature, their parleying was concerned
wholly with the effort to reveal themselves to one another. With
child-like glee they laboriously communicated their joy in life, their
hungers and pains, their whims, their idiosyncrasies, their common
passion to be once more united, and to be, as men have sometimes said,
at one in God.

But even in early days, when few nebulae were yet mature, and most were
still very unclear in their minds, it became evident to the more
awakened that, far from unity, they were steadily drifting apart. As the
physical influence of one on another diminished, each nebula perceived
its companions shrinking into the distance. Messages took longer and
longer to elicit answers.

Had the nebulae been able to communicate telepathically, the "expansion"
of the universe might have been faced without despair. But these beings
were apparently too simple to make direct and lucid mental contact with
one another. Thus they found themselves doomed to separation. And since
their life-tempo was so slow, they seemed to themselves to have scarcely
found one another before they must be parted. Bitterly they regretted
the blindness of their infancy. For as they reached maturity they
conceived, one and all, not merely the passion of mutual delight which
we call love, but also the conviction that through mental union with one
another lay the way to union with the source whence they had come.

When it had become clear that separation was inevitable, when indeed
the hard-won community of these naive beings was already failing through
the increased difficulty of communication, and the most remote nebulae
were already receding from one another at high speed, each perforce made
ready to face the mystery of existence in absolute solitude.

There followed an aeon, or rather for the slow-living creatures
themselves a brief spell, in which they sought, by self-mastery of their
own flesh and by spiritual discipline, to find the supreme illumination
which all awakened beings must, in their very nature, seek.

But now there appeared a new trouble. Some of the eldest of the nebulae
complained of a strange sickness which greatly hampered their
meditations. The outer fringes of their tenuous flesh began to
concentrate into little knots. These became in time grains of intense,
congested fire. In the void between, there was nothing left but a few
stray atoms. At first the complaint was no more serious than some
trivial rash on a man's skin; but later it spread into the deeper
tissues of the nebula, and was accompanied by grave mental troubles. In
vain the doomed creatures resolved to turn the plague to an advantage by
treating it as a heaven-sent test of the spirit. Though for a while they
might master the plague simply by heroic contempt of it, its ravages
eventually broke down their will. It now seemed clear to them that the
cosmos was a place of futility and horror.

Presently the younger nebulae observed that their seniors, one by one,
were falling into a state of sluggishness and confusion which ended
invariably in the sleep that men call death. Soon it became evident even
to the most buoyant spirit that this disease was no casual accident but
a fate inherent in the nebular nature.

One by one the celestial megatheria were annihilated, giving place to
stars.

Looking back on these events from my post in the far future, I, the
rudimentary cosmical mind, tried to make known to the dying nebulae in
the remote past that their death, far from being the end, was but an
early stage in the life of the cosmos. It was my hope that I might give
them consolation by imparting some idea of the vast and intricate
future, and of my own final awakening. But it proved impossible to
communicate with them. Though within the sphere of their ordinary
experience they were capable of a sort of intellection, beyond that
sphere they were almost imbecile. As well might a man seek to comfort
the disintegrating germ-cell from which he himself sprang by telling it
about his own successful career in human society.

Since this attempt to comfort was vain, I put aside compassion, and was
content merely to follow to its conclusion the collapse of the nebular
community. Judged by human standards the agony was immensely prolonged.
It began with the disintegration of the eldest nebulae into stars, and
it lasted (or will last) long after the destruction of the final human
race on Neptune. Indeed, the last of the nebulae did not sink into
complete unconsciousness till many of the corpses of its neighbors had
already been transformed into symbiotic societies of stars and minded
worlds. But to the slow-living nebulae themselves the plague seemed a
galloping disease. One after the other, each great religious beast found
itself at grips with the subtle enemy, and fought a gallant losing fight
until stupor overwhelmed it. None ever knew that its crumbling flesh
teemed with the young and swifter lives of stars, or that it was already
sprinkled here and there with the incomparably smaller, incomparably
swifter, and incomparably richer lives of creatures such as men, whose
crowded ages of history were all compressed within the last few
distressful moments of the primeval monsters.

2. THE SUPREME MOMENT NEARS

The discovery of nebular life deeply moved the incipient cosmical mind
that I had become. Patiently I studied those almost formless megatheria,
absorbing into my own composite being the fervor of their simple but
deep-running nature. For these simple creatures sought their goal with a
single-mindedness and passion eclipsing all the worlds and stars. With
such earnest imagination did I enter into their history that I myself,
the cosmical mind, was in a manner remade by contemplation of these
beings. Considering from the nebular point of view the vast complexity
and subtlety of the living worlds, I began to wonder whether the endless
divagations of the worlds were really due so much to richness of being
as to weakness of spiritual perception, so much to the immensely varied
potentiality of their nature as to sheer lack of any intense controlling
experience. A compass needle that is but feebly magnetized swings again
and again to west and east, and takes long to discover its proper
direction. One that is more sensitive will settle immediately toward the
north. Had the sheer complexity of every world, with its host of minute
yet complex members, merely confused its sense of the proper direction
of all spirit? Had the simplicity and spiritual vigor of the earliest,
hugest beings achieved something of highest value that the complexity
and subtlety of the worlds could never achieve?

But no! Excellent as the nebular mentality was, in its own strange way,
the stellar and the planetary mentalities had also their special
virtues. And of all three the planetary must be most prized, since it
could best comprehend all three.

I now allowed myself to believe that I, since I did at last include in
my own being an intimate awareness not only of many galaxies but also of
the first phase of cosmical life, might now with some justice regard
myself as the incipient mind of the cosmos as a whole.

But the awakened galaxies that supported me were still only a small
minority of the total population of galaxies. By telepathic influence I
continued to help on those many galaxies that were upon the threshold of
mental maturity. If I could include within the cosmical community of
awakened galaxies some hundreds instead of a mere score of members,
perhaps I myself, the communal mind, might be so strengthened as to rise
from my present state of arrested mental infancy to something more like
maturity. It was clear to me that even now, in my embryonic state, I was
ripening for some new elucidation; and that with good fortune I might
yet find myself in the presence of that which, in the human language of
this book, has been called the Star Maker.

At this time my longing for that presence had become an overmastering
passion. It seemed to me that the veil which still hid the source and
goal of all nebulae and stars and worlds was already dissolving. That
which had kindled so many myriad beings to worship, yet had clearly
revealed itself to none, that toward which all beings had blindly
striven, representing it to themselves by the images of a myriad
divinities, was now, I felt, on the point of revelation to me, the
marred but still growing spirit of the cosmos.

I who had myself been worshipped by hosts of my little members, I whose
achievement reached far beyond their dreams, was now oppressed,
overwhelmed, by the sense of my own littleness and imperfection. For the
veiled presence of the Star Maker already overmastered me with dreadful
power. The further I ascended along the path of the spirit, the loftier
appeared the heights that lay before me. For what I had once thought to
be the summit fully revealed was now seen to be a mere foot-hill. Beyond
lay the real ascent, steep, cragged, glacial, rising into the dark mist.
Never, never should I climb that precipice. And yet I must go forward.
Dread was overcome by irresistible craving.

Meanwhile under my influence the immature galaxies one by one attained
that pitch of lucidity which enabled them to join the cosmical community
and enrich me with their special experience. But physically the
enfeeblement of the cosmos continued. By the time that half the total
population of galaxies had reached maturity it became clear that few
more would succeed.

Of living stars, very few were left in any galaxy. Of the host of dead
stars, some, subjected to atomic disintegration, were being used as
artificial suns, and were surrounded by many thousands of artificial
planets. But the great majority of the stars were now encrusted, and
themselves peopled. After a while it became necessary to evacuate all
planets, since the artificial suns were too extravagant of energy. The
planet-dwelling races therefore one by one destroyed themselves,
bequeathing the material of their worlds and all their wisdom to the
inhabitants of the extinguished stars. Henceforth the cosmos, once a
swarm of blazing galaxies, each a swarm of stars, was composed wholly of
star-corpses. These dark grains drifted through the dark void, like an
infinitely tenuous smoke rising from an extinguished fire. Upon these
motes, these gigantic worlds, the ultimate populations had created here
and there with their artificial lighting a pale glow, invisible even
from the innermost ring of lifeless planets.

By far the commonest type of being in these stellar worlds was the
intelligent swarm of minute worms or insectoids. But there were also
many races of larger creatures of a very curious kind adapted to the
prodigious gravitation of their giant worlds. Each of these creatures
was a sort of living blanket. Its under surface bore a host of tiny legs
that were also mouths. These supported a body that was never more than
an inch thick, though it might be as much as a couple of yards wide and
ten yards long. At the forward end the manipulatory "arms" traveled on
their own battalions of legs. The upper surface of the body contained a
honeycomb of breathing-pores and a great variety of sense organs.
Between the two surfaces spread the organs of metabolism and the vast
area of brain. Compared with the worm-swarms and insect-swarms, these
tripe-like beings had the advantage of more secure mental unity and
greater specialization of organs; but they were more cumbersome, and
less adapted to the subterranean life which was later to be forced on
all populations.

The huge dark worlds with their immense weight of atmosphere and their
incredible breadths of ocean, where the waves even in the most furious
storms were never more than ripples such as we know on quicksilver, were
soon congested with the honeycomb civilizations of worms and insectoids
of many species, and the more precarious shelters of the tripe-like
creatures. Life on these worlds was almost like life in a
two-dimensional "flat-land." Even the most rigid of the artificial
elements was too weak to allow of lofty structures.

As time advanced, the internal heat of the encrusted stars was used up,
and it became necessary to support civilization by atomic disintegration
of the star's rocky core. Thus in time each stellar world became an
increasingly hollow sphere supported by a system of great internal
buttresses. One by one the populations, or rather the new and specially
adapted descendants of the former populations, retired into the
interiors of the burnt-out stars.

Each imprisoned in its hollow world, and physically isolated from the
rest of the cosmos, these populations telepathically supported the
cosmical mind. These were my flesh. In the inevitable "expansion" of the
universe, the dark galaxies had already for aeons been flying apart so
rapidly that light itself could not have bridged the gulf between them.
But this prodigious disintegration of the cosmos was of less account to
the ultimate populations than the physical insulation of star from star
through the cessation of all stellar radiation and all interstellar
travel. The many populations, teeming in the galleries of the many
worlds, maintained their telepathic union. Intimately they knew one
another in all their diversity. Together they supported the communal
mind, with all its awareness of the whole vivid, intricate past of the
cosmos, and its tireless effort to achieve its spiritual goal before
increase of entropy should destroy the tissue of civilizations in which
it inhered.

Such was the condition of the cosmos when it approached the supreme
moment of its career, and the illumination toward which all beings in
all ages had been obscurely striving. Strange it was that these
latter-day populations, cramped and impoverished, counting their past
pence of energy, should achieve the task that had defeated the brilliant
hosts of earlier epochs. Theirs was indeed the case of the wren that
outsoared the eagle. In spite of their straitened circumstances they
were still able to maintain the essential structure of a cosmical
community, and a cosmical mentality. And with native insight they could
use the past to deepen their wisdom far beyond the range of any past
wisdom. The supreme moment of the cosmos was not (or will not be) a
moment by human standards; but by cosmical standards it was indeed a
brief instant. When little more than half the total population of many
million galaxies had entered fully into the cosmical community, and it
was clear that no more were to be expected, there followed a period of
universal meditation. The populations maintained their straitened
Utopian civilizations, lived their personal lives of work and social
intercourse, and at the same time, upon the communal plane, refashioned
the whole structure of cosmical culture. Of this phase I shall say
nothing. Suffice it that to each galaxy and to each world was assigned a
special creative mental function, and that all assimilated the work of
all. At the close of this period I, the communal mind, emerged re-made,
as from a chrysalis; and for a brief moment, which was indeed the
supreme moment of the cosmos, I faced the Star Maker.

For the human author of this book there is now nothing left of that
age-long, that eternal moment which I experienced as the cosmical mind,
save the recollection of a bitter beatitude, together with a few
incoherent memories of the experience itself which fired me with that
beatitude.

Somehow I must tell something of that experience. Inevitably I face the
task with a sense of abysmal incompetence. The greatest minds of the
human race through all the ages of human history have failed to describe
their moments of deepest insight. Then how dare I attempt this task? And
yet I must. Even at the risk of well-merited ridicule and contempt and
moral censure, I must stammer out what I have seen. If a shipwrecked
seaman on his raft is swept helplessly past marvelous coasts and then
home again, he cannot hold his peace. The cultivated may turn away in
disgust at his rude accent and clumsy diction. The knowing may laugh at
his failure to distinguish between fact and illusion. But speak he must.

3. THE SUPREME MOMENT AND AFTER

In the supreme moment of the cosmos I, as the cosmical mind, seemed to
myself to be confronted with the source and the goal of all finite
things.

I did not, of course, in that moment sensuously perceive the infinite
spirit, the Star Maker. Sensuously I perceived nothing but what I had
perceived before, the populous interiors of many dying stellar worlds.
But through the medium which in this book is called telepathic I was now
given a more inward perception. I felt the immediate presence of the
Star Maker. Latterly, as I have said, I had already been powerfully
seized by a sense of the veiled presence of some being other than
myself, other than my cosmical body and conscious mind, other than my
living members and the swarms of the burnt-out stars. But now the veil
trembled and grew half-transparent to the mental vision. The source and
goal of all, the Star Maker, was obscurely revealed to me as a being
indeed other than my conscious self, objective to my vision, yet as in
the depth of my own nature; as, indeed, myself, though infinitely more
than myself.

It seemed to me that I now saw the Star Maker in two aspects: as the
spirit's particular creative mode that had given rise to me, the cosmos;
and also, most dreadfully, as something incomparably greater than
creativity, namely as the eternally achieved perfection of the absolute
spirit.

Barren, barren and trivial are these words. But not barren the
experience.

Confronted with this infinity that lay deeper than my deepest roots and
higher than my topmost reach, I, the cosmical mind, the flower of all
the stars and worlds, was appalled, as any savage is appalled by the
lightning and the thunder. And as I fell abject before the Star Maker,
my mind was flooded with a spate of images. The fictitious deities of
all races in all worlds once more crowded themselves upon me, symbols of
majesty and tenderness, of ruthless power, of blind creativity, and of
all-seeing wisdom. And though these images were but the fantasies of
created minds, it seemed to me that one and all did indeed embody some
true feature of the Star Maker's impact upon the creatures.

As I contemplated the host of deities that rose to me like a smoke cloud
from the many worlds, a new image, a new symbol of the infinite spirit,
took shape in my mind. Though born of my own cosmical imagination, it
was begotten by a greater than I. To the human writer of this book
little remains of that vision which so abashed and exalted me as the
cosmical mind. But I must strive to recapture it in a feeble net of
words as best I may.

It seemed to me that I had reached back through time to the moment of
creation. I watched the birth of the cosmos.

The spirit brooded. Though infinite and eternal, it had limited itself
with finite and temporal being, and it brooded on a past that pleased it
not. It was dissatisfied with some past creation, hidden from me; and it
was dissatisfied also with its own passing nature. Discontent goaded the
spirit into fresh creation.

But now, according to the fantasy that my cosmical mind conceived, the
absolute spirit, self-limited for creativity, objectified from itself an
atom of its infinite potentiality. This microcosm was pregnant with the
germ of a proper time and space, and all the kinds of cosmical beings.
Within this punctual cosmos the myriad but not unnumbered physical
centers of power, which men conceive vaguely as electrons, protons, and
the rest, were at first coincident with one another. And they were
dormant. The matter of ten million galaxies lay dormant in a point.

Then the Star Maker said, "Let there be light." And there was light.
From all the coincident and punctual centers of power, light leapt and
blazed. The cosmos exploded, actualizing its potentiality of space and
time. The centers of power, like fragments of a bursting bomb, were
hurled apart. But each one retained in itself, as a memory and a
longing, the single spirit of the whole; and each mirrored in itself
aspects of all others throughout all the cosmical space and time.

No longer punctual, the cosmos was now a volume of inconceivably dense
matter and inconceivably violent radiation, constantly expanding. And it
was a sleeping and infinitely dissociated spirit.

But to say that the cosmos was expanding is equally to say that its
members were contracting. The ultimate centers of power, each at first
coincident with the punctual cosmos, themselves generated the cosmical
space by their disengagement from each other. The expansion of the whole
cosmos was but the shrinkage of all its physical units and of the
wave-lengths of its light. Though the cosmos was ever of finite bulk, in
relation to its minutiae of light-waves, it was boundless and
center-less. As the surface of a swelling sphere lacks boundary and
center, so the swelling volume of the cosmos was boundless and
center-less. But as the spherical surface is centered on a point foreign
to it, in a "third dimension," so the volume of the cosmos was centered
in a point foreign to it, in a "fourth dimension."

The congested and exploding cloud of fire swelled till it was of a
planet's size, a star's size, the size of a whole galaxy, and of ten
million galaxies. And in swelling it became more tenuous, less
brilliant, less turbulent. Presently the cosmical cloud was disrupted by
the stress of its expansion in conflict with the mutual clinging of its
parts, disrupted into many million cloudlets, the swarm of the great
nebulae.

For a while these were as close to one another in relation to their bulk
as the flocculations of a mottled sky. But the channels between them
widened, till they were separated as flowers on a bush, as bees in a
flying swarm, as birds migrating, as ships on the sea. More and more
rapidly they retreated from one another; and at the same time each cloud
contracted, becoming first a ball of down and then a spinning lens and
then a featured whirl of star-streams.

Still the cosmos expanded, till the galaxies that were most remote from
one another were flying apart so swiftly that the creeping light of the
cosmos could no longer bridge the gulf between them.

But I, with imaginative vision, retained sight of them all. It was as
though some other, some hypercosmical and instantaneous light, issuing
from nowhere in the cosmical space, illuminated all things inwardly.

Once more, but in a new and cold and penetrating light, I watched all
the lives of stars and worlds, and of the galactic communities, and of
myself, up to the moment wherein now I stood, confronted by the infinity
that men call God, and conceive according to their human cravings.

I, too, now sought to capture the infinite spirit, the Star Maker, in an
image spun by my own finite though cosmical nature. For now it seemed to
me, it seemed, that I suddenly outgrew the three-dimensional vision
proper to all creatures, and that I saw with physical sight the Star
Maker. I saw, though nowhere in cosmical space, the blazing source of
the hypercosmical light, as though it were an overwhelmingly brilliant
point, a star, a sun more powerful than all suns together. It seemed to
me that this effulgent star was the center of a four-dimensional sphere
whose curved surface was the three-dimensional cosmos. This star of
stars, this star that was indeed the Star Maker, was perceived by me,
its cosmical creature, for one moment before its splendor seared my
vision. And in that moment I knew that I had indeed seen the very source
of all cosmical light and life and mind; and of how much else besides I
had as yet no knowledge.

But this image, this symbol that my cosmical mind had conceived under
the stress of inconceivable experience, broke and was transformed in the
very act of my conceiving it, so inadequate was it to the actuality of
the experience. Harking back in my blindness to the moment of my vision,
I now conceived that the star which was the Star Maker, and the immanent
center of all existence, had been perceived as looking down on me, his
creature, from the height of his infinitude; and that when I saw him I
immediately spread the poor wings of my spirit to soar up to him, only
to be blinded and seared and struck down. It had seemed to me in the
moment of my vision that all the longing and hope of all finite spirits
for union with the infinite spirit were strength to my wings. It seemed
to me that the Star, my Maker, must surely stoop to meet me and raise me
and enfold me in his radiance. For it seemed to me that I, the spirit of
so many worlds, the flower of so many ages, was the Church Cosmical, fit
at last to be the bride of God. But instead I was blinded and seared and
struck down by terrible light.

It was not only physical effulgence that struck me down in that supreme
moment of my life. In that moment I guessed what mood it was of the
infinite spirit that had in fact made the cosmos, and constantly
supported it, watching its tortured growth. And it was that discovery
which felled me.

For I had been confronted not by welcoming and kindly love, but by a
very different spirit. And at once I knew that the Star Maker had made
me not to be his bride, nor yet his treasured child, but for some other
end.

It seemed to me that he gazed down on me from the height of his divinity
with the aloof though passionate attention of an artist judging his
finished work; calmly rejoicing in its achievement, but recognizing at
last the irrevocable flaws in its initial conception, and already
lusting for fresh creation.

His gaze anatomized me with calm skill, dismissing my imperfections, and
absorbing for his own enrichment all the little excellence that I had
won in the struggle of the ages.

In my agony I cried out against my ruthless maker. I cried out that,
after all, the creature was nobler than the creator; for the creature
loved and craved love, even from the star that was the Star Maker; but
the creator, the Star Maker, neither loved nor had need of love.

But no sooner had I, in my blinded misery, cried out, than I was struck
dumb with shame. For suddenly it was clear to me that virtue in the
creator is not the same as virtue in the creature. For the creator, if
he should love his creature, would be loving only a part of himself; but
the creature, praising the creator, praises an infinity beyond himself.
I saw that the virtue of the creature was to love and to worship, but
the virtue of the creator was to create, and to be the infinite, the
unrealizable and incomprehensible goal of worshipping creatures.

Once more, but in shame and adoration, I cried out to my maker. I said,
"It is enough, and far more than enough, to be the creature of so dread
and lovely a spirit, whose potency is infinite, whose nature passes the
comprehension even of a minded cosmos. It is enough to have been
created, to have embodied for a moment the infinite and tumultuously
creative spirit. It is infinitely more than enough to have been used, to
have been the rough sketch for some perfected creation."

And so there came upon me a strange peace and a strange joy.

Looking into the future, I saw without sorrow, rather with quiet
interest, my own decline and fall. I saw the populations of the stellar
worlds use up more and more of their resources for the maintenance of
their frugal civilizations. So much of the interior matter of the stars
did they disintegrate, that their worlds were in danger of collapse.
Some worlds did indeed crash in fragments upon their hollow centers,
destroying the indwelling peoples. Most, before the critical point was
reached, were remade, patiently taken to pieces and rebuilt upon a
smaller scale. One by one, each star was turned into a world of merely
planetary size. Some were no bigger than the moon. The populations
themselves were reduced to a mere millionth of their original numbers,
maintaining within each little hollow grain a mere skeleton civilization
in conditions that became increasingly penurious.

Looking into the future aeons from the supreme moment of the cosmos, I
saw the populations still with all their strength maintaining the
essentials of their ancient culture, still living their personal lives
in zest and endless novelty of action, still practicing telepathic
intercourse between worlds, still telepathically sharing all that was of
value in their respective world-spirits, still supporting a truly
cosmical community with its single cosmical mind. I saw myself still
preserving, though with increasing difficulty, my lucid consciousness;
battling against the onset of drowsiness and senility, no longer in the
hope of winning through to any more glorious state than that which I had
already known, or of laying a less inadequate jewel of worship before
the Star Maker, but simply out of sheer hunger for experience, and out
of loyalty to the spirit.

But inevitably decay overtook me. World after world, battling with
increasing economic difficulties, was forced to reduce its population
below the numbers needed for the functioning of its own communal
mentality. Then, like a degenerating brain-center, it could no longer
fulfil its part in the cosmical experience.

Looking forward from my station in the supreme moment of the cosmos, I
saw myself, the cosmical mind, sink steadily toward death. But in this
my last aeon, when all my powers were waning, and the burden of my
decaying body pressed heavily on my enfeebled courage, an obscure memory
of past lucidity still consoled me. For confusedly I knew that even in
this my last, most piteous age I was still under the zestful though
remote gaze of the Star Maker.

Still probing the future, from the moment of my supreme unwithered
maturity, I saw my death, the final breaking of those telepathic
contacts on which my being depended. Thereafter the few surviving worlds
lived on in absolute isolation, and in that barbarian condition which
men call civilized. Then in world after world the basic skills of
material civilization began to fail; and in particular the techniques of
atomic disintegration and photosynthesis. World after world either
accidentally exploded its little remaining store of matter, and was
turned into a spreading, fading sphere of lightwaves in the immense
darkness; or else died miserably of starvation and cold. Presently
nothing was left in the whole cosmos but darkness and the dark whiffs of
dust that once were galaxies. Aeons incalculable passed. Little by
little each whiff of dust-grains contracted upon itself through the
gravitational influence of its parts; till at last, not without fiery
collisions between wandering grains, all the matter in each whiff was
concentrated to become a single lump. The pressure of the huge outer
regions heated the center of each lump to incandescence and even to
explosive activity. But little by little the last resources of the
cosmos were radiated away from the cooling lumps, and nothing was left
but rock and the inconceivably faint ripples of radiation that crept in
all directions throughout the ever "expanding" cosmos, far too slowly to
bridge the increasing gulfs between the islanded grains of rock.

Meanwhile, since each rocky sphere that had once been a galaxy had been
borne beyond every possible physical influence of its fellows, and there
were no minds to maintain telepathic contact between them, each was in
effect a wholly distinct universe. And since all change had ceased, the
proper time of each barren universe had also ceased.

Since this apparently was to be the static and eternal end, I withdrew
my fatigued attention back once more to the supreme moment which was in
fact my present, or rather my immediate past. And with the whole mature
power of my mind I tried to see more clearly what it was that had been
present to me in that immediate past. For in that instant when I had
seen the blazing star that was the Star Maker, I had glimpsed, in the
very eye of that splendor, strange vistas of being; as though in the
depths of the hypercosmical past and the hypercosmical future also, yet
coexistent in eternity, lay cosmos beyond cosmos.



CHAPTER XIV

THE MYTH OF CREATION

A WALKER in mountainous country, lost in mist, and groping from rock to
rock, may come suddenly out of the cloud to find himself on the very
brink of a precipice. Below he sees valleys and hills, plains, rivers,
and intricate cities, the sea with all its islands, and overhead the
sun. So I, in the supreme moment of my cosmical experience, emerged from
the mist of my finitude to be confronted by cosmos upon cosmos, and by
the light itself that not only illumines but gives life to all. Then
immediately the mist closed in upon me again.

That strange vision, inconceivable to any finite mind, even of cosmical
stature, I cannot possibly describe. I, the little human individual, am
now infinitely removed from it; and even to the cosmical mind itself it
was most baffling. Yet if I were to say nothing whatever of the content
of my adventure's crowning moment, I should belie the spirit of the
whole. Though human language and even human thought itself are perhaps
in their very nature incapable of metaphysical truth, something I must
somehow contrive to express, even if only by metaphor.

All I can do is to record, as best I may with my poor human powers,
something of the vision's strange and tumultuous after-effect upon my
own cosmical imagination when the intolerable lucidity had already
blinded me, and I gropingly strove to recollect what it was that had
appeared. For in my blindness the vision did evoke from my stricken mind
a fantastic reflex of itself, an echo, a symbol, a myth, a crazy dream
contemptibly crude and falsifying, yet, as I believe, not wholly without
significance. This poor myth, this mere parable, I shall recount, so far
as I can remember it in my merely human state. More I cannot do. But
even this I cannot properly accomplish. Not once, but many times, I have
written down an account of my dream, and then destroyed it, so
inadequate was it. With a sense of utter failure I stammeringly report
only a few of its more intelligible characters.

One feature of the actual vision my myth represented in a most
perplexing and inadequate manner. It declared that the supreme moment of
my experience as the cosmical mind actually comprised eternity within
it, and that within eternity there lay a multiplicity of temporal
sequences wholly distinct from one another. For though in eternity all
times are present, and the infinite spirit, being perfect, must comprise
in itself the full achievement of all possible creations, yet this could
not be unless in its finite, its temporal and creative mode, the
infinite and absolute spirit conceived and executed the whole vast
series of creations. For creation's sake the eternal and infinite spirit
entails time within its eternity, contains the whole protracted sequence
of creations.

In my dream, the Star Maker himself, as eternal and absolute spirit,
timelessly contemplated all his works; but also as the finite and
creative mode of the absolute spirit, he bodied forth his creations one
after the other in a time sequence proper to his own adventure and
growth. And further, each of his works, each cosmos, was itself gifted
with its own peculiar time, in such a manner that the whole sequence of
events within any single cosmos could be viewed by the Star Maker not
only from within the cosmical time itself but also externally, from the
time proper to his own life, with all the cosmical epochs co-existing
together. According to the strange dream or myth which took possession
of my mind, the Star Maker in his finite and creative mode was actually
a developing, an awakening spirit. That he should be so, and yet also
eternally perfect, is of course humanly inconceivable; but my mind,
overburdened with superhuman vision, found no other means of expressing
to itself the mystery of creation.

Eternally, so my dream declared to me, the Star Maker is perfect and
absolute; yet in the beginning of the time proper to his creative mode
he was an infant deity, restless, eager, mighty, but without clear will.
He was equipped with all creative power. He could make universes with
all kinds of physical and mental attributes. He was limited only by
logic. Thus he could ordain the most surprising natural laws, but he
could not, for instance, make twice two equal five. In his early phase
he was limited also by his immaturity. He was still in the trance of
infancy. Though the unconscious source of his consciously exploring and
creating mentality was none other than his own eternal essence,
consciously he was at first but the vague blind hunger of creativity.

In his beginning he immediately set about exploring his power. He
objectified from himself something of his own unconscious substance to
be the medium of his art, and this he molded with conscious purpose.
Thus again and again he fashioned toy cosmos after toy cosmos.

But the creative Star Maker's own unconscious substance was none other
than the eternal spirit itself, the Star Maker in his eternal and
perfect aspect. Thus it was that, in his immature phases, whenever he
evoked from his own depth the crude substance of a cosmos, the substance
itself turned out to be not formless but rich in determinate
potentialities, logical, physical, biological, psychological. These
potentialities were sometimes recalcitrant to the conscious purpose of
the young Star Maker. He could not always accommodate, still less fulfil
them. It seemed to me that this idiosyncrasy of the medium itself often
defeated his plan; but also that it suggested again and again more
fertile conceptions. Again and again, according to my myth, the Star
Maker learned from his creature, and thereby outgrew his creature, and
craved to work upon an ampler plan. Again and again he set aside a
finished cosmos and evoked from himself a new creation.

Many times in the early part of my dream I felt doubt as to what the
Star Maker was striving to accomplish in his creating. I could not but
believe that his purpose was at first not clearly conceived. He himself
had evidently to discover it gradually; and often, as it seemed to me,
his work was tentative, and his aim confused. But at the close of his
maturity he willed to create as fully as possible, to call forth the
full potentiality of his medium, to fashion works of increasing
subtlety, and of increasingly harmonious diversity. As his purpose
became clearer, it seemed also to include the will to create universes
each of which might contain some unique achievement of awareness and
expression. For the creature's achievement of perception and of will was
seemingly the instrument by which the Star Maker himself, cosmos by
cosmos, woke into keener lucidity.

Thus it was that, through the succession of his creatures, the Star
Maker advanced from stage to stage in the progress from infantile to
mature divinity.

Thus it was that in the end he became what, in the eternal view, he
already was in the beginning, the ground and crown of all things.

In the typically irrational manner of dreams, this dream-myth which
arose in my mind represented the eternal spirit as being at once the
cause and the result of the infinite host of finite existents. In some
unintelligible manner all finite things, though they were in a sense
figments of the absolute spirit, were also essential to the very
existence of the absolute spirit. Apart from them it had no being. But
whether this obscure relationship represented some important truth or
was merely a trivial dream-fiction, I cannot say.



CHAPTER XV

THE MAKER AND HIS WORKS

1. IMMATURE CREATING

ACCORDING to the fantastic myth or dream that was evoked from my mind
after the supreme moment of experience, the particular cosmos which I
had come to regard as "myself" falls somewhere neither early nor late in
the vast series of creations. It appeared to be in some respects the
Star Maker's first mature work; but in comparison with later creations
it was in many ways juvenile in spirit.

Though the early creations express the nature of the Star Maker merely
in his immature phase, for the most part they fall in important respects
aside from the direction of human thought, and therefore I cannot now
recapture them. They have left me with little more than a vague sense of
the multiplicity and diversity of the Star Maker's works. Nevertheless a
few humanly intelligible traces remain and must be recorded.

In the crude medium of my dream the first cosmos of all appeared as a
surprisingly simple thing. The infant Star Maker, teased, as it seemed
to me, by his unexpressed potency, conceived and objectified from
himself two qualities. With these alone he made his first toy cosmos, a
temporal rhythm, as it were of sound and silence. From this first simple
drum-beat, premonitory of a thousand creations, he developed with
infantile but god-like zest a flickering tattoo, a changeful complexity
of rhythm. Presently, through contemplation of his creature's simple
form, he conceived the possibility of more subtle creating. Thus the
first of all creatures itself bred in its creator a need that itself
could never satisfy. Therefore the infant Star Maker brought his first
cosmos to a close. Regarding it from outside the cosmical time which it
had generated, he apprehended its whole career as present, though none
the less a flux. And when he had quietly assessed his work, he withdrew
his attention from it and brooded for a second creation.

Thereafter, cosmos upon cosmos, each more rich and subtle than the last,
leapt from his fervent imagination. In some of his earliest creations he
seemed to be concerned only with the physical aspect of the substance
which he had objectified from himself. He was blind to its physical
potentiality. In one early cosmos, however, the patterns of physical
quality with which he played simulated an individuality and a life which
they did not in fact possess. Or did they possess it? In a later
creation, certainly, true life broke out most strangely. This was a
cosmos which the Star Maker apprehended physically much as men
apprehended music. It was a rich sequence of qualities diverse in pitch
and in intensity. With this toy the infant Star Maker played
delightedly, inventing an infinite wealth of melody and counterpoint.
But before he had worked out all the subtleties of pattern implied in
this little world of cold, mathematical music, before he had created
more than a few kinds of lifeless, musical creatures, it became evident
that some of his creatures were manifesting traces of a life of their
own, recalcitrant to the conscious purpose of the Star Maker. The themes
of the music began to display modes of behavior that were not in accord
with the canon which he had ordained for them. It seemed to me that he
watched them with intense interest, and that they spurred him to new
conceptions, beyond the creatures' power to fulfil. Therefore he brought
this cosmos to completion; and in a novel manner. He contrived that the
last state of the cosmos should lead immediately back to the first. He
knotted the final event temporally to the beginning, so that the
cosmical time formed an endless circlet. After considering his work from
outside its proper time, he set it aside, and brooded for a fresh
creation.

For the next cosmos he consciously projected something of his own
percipience and will, ordaining that certain patterns and rhythms of
quality should be the perceivable bodies of perceiving minds. Seemingly
these creatures were intended to work together to produce the harmony
which he had conceived for this cosmos; but instead, each sought to mold
the whole cosmos in accordance with its own form. The creatures fought
desperately, and with self-righteous conviction. When they were damaged,
they suffered pain. This, seemingly, was something which the young Star
Maker had never experienced or conceived. With rapt, surprised interest,
and (as it seemed to me) with almost diabolical glee, he watched the
antics and the sufferings of his first living creatures, till by their
mutual strife and slaughter they had reduced this cosmos to chaos.

Thenceforth the Star Maker never for long ignored his creatures'
potentiality for intrinsic life. It seemed to me, however, that many of
his early experiments in vital creation went strangely awry, and that
sometimes, seemingly in disgust with the biological, he would revert for
a while to purely physical fantasies.

I can only briefly describe the host of the early creations. Suffice it
that they issued from the divine though still infantile imagination one
after the other like bright but trivial bubbles, gaudy with color, rich
with all manner of physical subtleties, lyrical and often tragic with
the loves and hates, the lusts and aspirations and communal enterprises
of the Star Maker's early experimental conscious beings.

Many of these early universes were non-spatial, though none the less
physical. And of these non-spatial universes not a few were of the
"musical" type, in which space was strangely represented by a dimension
corresponding to musical pitch, and capacious with myriads of tonal
differences. The creatures appeared to one another as complex patterns
and rhythms of tonal characters. They could move their tonal bodies in
the dimension of pitch, and sometimes in other dimensions, humanly
inconceivable. A creature's body was a more or less constant tonal
pattern, with much the same degree of flexibility and minor
changefulness as a human body. Also, it could traverse other living
bodies in the pitch dimension much as wave-trains on a pond may cross
one another. But though these beings could glide through one another,
they could also grapple, and damage one another's tonal tissues. Some,
indeed, lived by devouring others; for the more complex needed to
integrate into their own vital patterns the simpler patterns that
exfoliated throughout the cosmos directly from the creative power of the
Star Maker. The intelligent creatures could manipulate for their own
ends elements wrenched from the fixed tonal environment, thus
constructing artifacts of tonal pattern. Some of these served as tools
for the more efficient pursuit of "agricultural" activities, by which
they enhanced the abundance of their natural food. Universes of this
non-spatial kind, though incomparably simpler and more meager than our
own cosmos, were rich enough to produce societies capable not only of
"agriculture" but of "handicrafts," and even a kind of pure art that
combined the characteristics of song and dance and verse. Philosophy,
generally rather Pythagorean, appeared for the first time in a cosmos of
this "musical" kind. In nearly all the Star Maker's works, as revealed
in my dream, time was a more fundamental attribute than space. Though in
some of his earliest creations he excluded time, embodying merely a
static design, this plan was soon abandoned. It gave little scope to his
skill. Moreover, since it excluded the possibility of life and mind, it
was incompatible with all but the earliest phase of his interest.

Space, my dream declared, appeared first as a development of a
non-spatial dimension in a "musical" cosmos. The tonal creatures in this
cosmos could move not merely "up" and "down" the scale but "sideways."
In human music particular themes may seem to approach or retreat, owing
to variations of loudness and timbre. In a rather similar manner the
creatures in this "musical" cosmos could approach one another or retreat
and finally vanish out of earshot. In passing "sideways" they traveled
through continuously changing tonal environments. In a subsequent cosmos
this "sideways" motion of the creatures was enriched with true spatial
experience.

There followed creations with spatial characters of several dimensions,
creations Euclidean and non-Euclidean, creations exemplifying a great
diversity of geometrical and physical principles. Sometimes time, or
space-time, was the fundamental reality of the cosmos, and the entities
were but fleeting modifications of it; but more often, qualitative
events were fundamental, and these were related in spatio-temporal
manners. In some cases the system of spatial relations was infinite, in
others finite though boundless. In some the finite extent of space was
of constant magnitude in relation to the atomic material constituents of
the cosmos; in some, as in our own cosmos, it was manifested as in many
respects "expanding." In others again space "contracted"; so that the
end of such a cosmos, rich perhaps in intelligent communities, was the
collision and congestion of all its parts, and their final coincidence
and vanishing into a dimensionless point.

In some creations expansion and ultimate quiescence were followed by
contraction and entirely new kinds of physical activity. Sometimes, for
example, gravity was replaced by anti-gravity. All large lumps of matter
tended to burst asunder, and all small ones to fly apart from each
other. In one such cosmos the law of entropy also was reversed. Energy,
instead of gradually spreading itself evenly throughout the cosmos,
gradually piled itself upon the ultimate material units. I came in time
to suspect that my own cosmos was followed by a reversed cosmos of this
kind, in which, of course, the nature of living things was profoundly
different from anything conceivable to man. But this is a digression,
for I am at present describing much earlier and simpler universes. Many
a universe was physically a continuous fluid in which the solid
creatures swam. Others were constructed as series of concentric spheres,
peopled by diverse orders of creatures. Some quite early universes were
quasi-astronomical, consisting of a void sprinkled with rare and minute
centers of power.

Sometimes the Star Maker fashioned a cosmos which was without any
single, objective, physical nature. Its creatures were wholly without
influence on one another; but under the direct stimulation of the Star
Maker each creature conceived an illusory but reliable and useful
physical world of its own, and peopled it with figments of its
imagination. These subjective worlds the mathematical genius of the Star
Maker correlated in a manner that was perfectly systematic.

I must not say more of the immense diversity of physical form which,
according to my dream, the early creations assumed. It is enough to
mention that, in general, each cosmos was more complex, and in a sense
more voluminous than the last; for in each the ultimate physical units
were smaller in relation to the whole, and more multitudinous. Also, in
each the individual conscious creatures were generally more in number,
and more diverse in type; and the most awakened in each cosmos reached a
more lucid mentality than any creatures in the previous cosmos.

Biologically and psychologically the early creations were very diverse.
In some cases there was a biological evolution such as we know. A small
minority of species would precariously ascend toward greater
individuation and mental clarity. In other creations the species were
biologically fixed, and progress, if it occurred, was wholly cultural.
In a few most perplexing creations the most awakened state of the cosmos
was at the beginning, and the Star Maker calmly watched this lucid
consciousness decay.

Sometimes a cosmos started as a single lowly organism with an internal,
non-organic environment. It then propagated by fission into an
increasing host of increasingly small and increasingly individuated and
awakened creatures. In some of these universes evolution would continue
till the creatures became too minute to accommodate the complexity of
organic structure necessary for intelligent minds. The Star Maker would
then watch the cosmical societies desperately striving to circumvent the
fated degeneration of their race.

In some creations the crowning achievement of the cosmos was a chaos of
mutually unintelligible societies, each devoted to the service of some
one mode of the spirit, and hostile to all others. In some the climax
was a single Utopian society of distinct minds; in others a single
composite cosmical mind.

Sometimes it pleased the Star Maker to ordain that each creature in a
cosmos should be an inevitable, determinate expression of the
environment's impact on its ancestors and itself. In other creations
each creature had some power of arbitrary choice, and some modicum of
the Star Maker's own creativity. So it seemed to me in my dream; but
even in my dream I suspected that to a more subtle observer both kinds
would have appeared as in fact determinate, and yet both of them also
spontaneous and creative.

In general the Star Maker, once he had ordained the basic principles of
a cosmos and created its initial state, was content to watch the issue;
but sometimes he chose to interfere, either by infringing the natural
laws that he himself had ordained, or by introducing new emergent
formative principles, or by influencing the minds of the creatures by
direct revelation. This according to my dream, was sometimes done to
improve a cosmical design; but, more often, interference was included in
his original plan. Sometimes the Star Maker flung off creations which
were in effect groups of many linked universes, wholly distinct physical
systems of very different kinds, yet related by the fact that the
creatures lived their lives successively in universe after universe,
assuming in each habitat an indigenous physical form, but bearing with
them in their transmigration faint and easily misinterpreted memories of
earlier existences. In another way also, this principle of
transmigration was some-times used. Even creations that were not thus
systematically linked might contain creatures that mentally echoed in
some vague but haunting manner the experience or the temperament of
their counterparts in some other cosmos.

One very dramatic device was used in cosmos after cosmos. I mentioned
earlier that in my dream the immature Star Maker had seemed to regard
the tragic failure of his first biological experiment with a kind of
diabolical glee. In many subsequent creations also he appeared to be
two-minded. Whenever his conscious creative plan was thwarted by some 
unsuspected potentiality of the substance which he had objectified from
his unconscious depth, his mood seemed to include not only frustration
but also surprised satisfaction, as of some unrecognized hunger
unexpectedly satisfied. This two-mindedness at length gave rise to a new
mode of creating. There came a stage in the Star Maker's growth, as my
dream represented it, when he contrived to dissociate himself as two
independent spirits, the one his essential self, the spirit that sought
positive creation of vital and spiritual forms and ever more lucid
awareness, the other a rebellious, destructive and cynical spirit, that
could have no being save as a parasite upon the works of the other.

Again and again he dissociated these two moods of himself, objectified
them as independent spirits, and permitted them to strive within a
cosmos for mastery. One such cosmos, which consisted of three linked
universes, was somewhat reminiscent of Christian orthodoxy. The first of
these linked universes was inhabited by generations of creatures gifted
with varying degrees of sensibility, intelligence, and moral integrity.
Here the two spirits played for the souls of the creatures. The "good"
spirit exhorted, helped, rewarded, punished; the "evil" spirit
deceived, tempted, and morally destroyed. At death the creatures passed
into one or other of the two secondary universes, which constituted a
timeless heaven and a timeless hell. There they experienced an eternal
moment either of ecstatic comprehension and worship or of the extreme
torment of remorse.

When my dream presented me with this crude, this barbaric figment, I was
at first moved with horror and incredulity. How could the Star Maker,
even in his immaturity, condemn his creatures to agony for the weakness
that he himself had allotted to them? How could such a vindictive deity
command worship? In vain I told myself that my dream must have utterly
falsified the reality; for I was convinced that in this respect it was
not false, but in some sense true, at least symbolically. Yet, even when
I was confronted by this brutal deed, even in the revulsion of pity and
horror, I saluted the Star Maker.

To excuse my worship, I told myself that this dread mystery lay far
beyond my comprehension, and that in some sense even such flagrant
cruelty must, in the Star Maker, be right. Did barbarity perhaps belong
to the Star Maker only in his immaturity? Later, when he was fully
himself, would he finally outgrow it? No! Already I deeply knew that
this ruthlessness was to be manifested even in the ultimate cosmos.
Could there, then, be some key fact, overlooked by me, in virtue of
which such seeming vindictiveness was justified? Was it simply that all
creatures were indeed but figments of the creative power, and that in
tormenting his creatures the Star Maker did but torment himself in the
course of his adventure of self-expression? Or was it perhaps that even
the Star Maker himself, though mighty, was limited in all creation by
certain absolute logical principles, and that one of these was the
indissoluble bond between betrayal and remorse in half-awakened spirits?
Had he, in this strange cosmos, simply accepted and used the ineluctable
limitations of his art? Or again, was my respect given to the Star Maker
only as the "good" spirit, not as the "evil" spirit? And was he in fact
striving to eject evil from himself by means of this device of
dissociation?

Some such explanation was suggested by the strange evolution of this
cosmos. Since its denizens had mostly a very low degree of intelligence
and moral integrity, the hell was soon overcrowded, while the heaven
remained almost empty. But the Star Maker in his "good" aspect loved and
pitied his creatures. The "good" spirit therefore entered into the
mundane sphere to redeem the sinners by his own suffering. And so at
last the heaven was peopled, though the hell was not depopulated.

Was it, then, only the "good" aspect of the Star Maker that I
worshipped? No! Irrationally, yet with conviction, I gave my adoration
to the Star Maker as comprising both aspects of his dual nature, both
the "good" and the "evil," both the mild and the terrible, both the
humanly ideal and the incomprehensibly inhuman. Like an infatuated lover
who denies or excuses the flagrant faults of the beloved, I strove to
palliate the inhumanity of the Star Maker, nay positively I gloried in
it. Was there then something cruel in my own nature? Or did my heart
vaguely recognize that love, the supreme virtue in creatures, must not
in the creator be absolute?

This dire and insoluble problem confronted me again and again in the
course of my dream. For instance there appeared a creation in which the
two spirits were permitted to strive in a novel and more subtle manner.
In its early phase this cosmos manifested only physical characters; but
the Star Maker provided that its vital potentiality should gradually
express itself in certain kinds of living creatures which, generation by
generation, should emerge from the purely physical and evolve toward
intelligence and spiritual lucidity. In this cosmos he permitted the two
spirits, the "good" and the "evil," to compete even in the very making
of the creatures.

In the long early ages the spirits struggled over the evolution of the
innumerable species. The "good" spirit worked to produce creatures more
highly organized, more individual, more delicately related to the
environment, more skilled in action, more comprehensively and vividly
aware of their world, of themselves, and of other selves. The "evil"
spirit tried to thwart this enterprise.

The organs and tissues of every species manifested throughout their
structure the conflict of the two spirits. Sometimes the "evil" spirit
contrived seemingly unimportant but insidious and lethal features for a
creature's undoing. Its nature would include some special liability to
harbor parasites, some weakness of digestive machinery, some instability
of nervous organization. In other cases the "evil" spirit would equip
some lower species with special weapons for the destruction of the
pioneers of evolution, so that they should succumb, either to some new
disease, or to plagues of the vermin of this particular cosmos, or to
the more brutish of their own kind.

A still more ingenious plan the evil spirit sometimes used with great
effect. When the "good" spirit had hit upon some promising device, and
from small beginnings had worked up in its favoured species some new
organic structure or mode of behavior, the evil spirit would contrive
that the process of evolution should continue long after it had reached
perfect adjustment to the creature's needs. Teeth would grow so large
that eating became excessively difficult, protective shells so heavy
that they hampered locomotion, horns so curved that they pressed upon
the brain, the impulse to individuality so imperious that it destroyed
society, or the social impulse so obsessive that individuality was
crushed.

Thus in world after world of this cosmos, which greatly surpassed all
earlier creations in complexity, almost every species came sooner or
later to grief. But in some worlds a single species reached the "human"
level of intelligence and I of spiritual sensibility. Such a combination
of powers ought to have secured it from all possible attack. But both
intelligence and spiritual sensibility were most skilfully perverted by
the "evil" spirit. For though by nature they were complementary, they
could be brought into conflict; or else one or both could be exaggerated
so as to become as lethal as the extravagant horns and teeth of earlier
kinds. Thus intelligence, which led on the one hand to the mastery of
physical force and on the other to intellectual subtlety, might, if
divorced from spiritual sensibility, cause disaster. The mastery of
physical force often produced a mania for power, and the dissection of
society into two alien classes, the powerful and the enslaved.
Intellectual subtlety might produce a mania for analysis and
abstraction, with blindness to all that intellect could not expound. Yet
sensibility itself, when it rejected intellectual criticism and the
claims of daily life, would be smothered in dreams.

2. MATURE CREATING

According to the myth that my mind conceived when the supreme moment of
my cosmical experience had passed, the Star Maker at length entered into
a state of rapt meditation in which his own nature suffered a
revolutionary change. So at least I judged from the great change that
now came over his creative activity.

After he had reviewed with new eyes all his earlier works, dismissing
each, as it seemed to me, with mingled respect and impatience, he
discovered in himself a new and pregnant conception.

The cosmos which he now created was that which contains the readers and
the writer of this book. In its making he used, but with more cunning
art, many of the principles which had already served him in earlier
creations; and he wove them together to form a more subtle and more
capacious unity than ever before.

It seemed to me, in my fantasy, that he approached this new enterprise
in a new mood. Each earlier cosmos appeared to have been fashioned with
conscious will to embody certain principles, physical, biological,
psychological. As has already been reported, there often appeared a
conflict between his intellectual purpose and the raw nature which he had
evoked for his creature out of the depth of his own obscure being. This
time, however, he dealt more sensitively with the medium of his
creation. The crude spiritual "material" which he objectified from his
own hidden depth for the formation of his new creature was molded to his
still tentative purpose with more sympathetic intelligence, with more
respect for its nature and its potentiality, though with detachment from
its more extravagant demands.

To speak thus of the universal creative spirit is almost childishly
anthropomorphic. For the life of such a spirit, if it exists at all,
must be utterly different from human mentality, and utterly
inconceivable to man. Nevertheless, since this childish symbolism did
force itself upon me, I record it. In spite of its crudity, perhaps it
does contain some genuine reflection of the truth, however distorted.

In the new creation there occurred a strange kind of discrepancy between
the Star Maker's own time and the time proper to the cosmos itself.
Hitherto, though he could detach himself from the cosmical time when the
cosmical history had completed itself, and observe all the cosmical ages
as present, he could not actually create the later phases of a cosmos
before he had created the earlier. In his new creation he was not thus
limited.

Thus although this new cosmos was my own cosmos, I regarded it from a
surprising angle of vision. No longer did it appear as a familiar
sequence of historical events beginning with the initial physical
explosion and advancing to the final death. I saw it now not from within
the flux of the cosmical time but quite otherwise. I watched the
fashioning of the cosmos in the time proper to the Star Maker; and the
sequence of the Star Maker's creative acts was very different from the
sequence of historical events.

First he conceived from the depth of his own being a something, neither
mind nor matter, but rich in potentiality, and in suggestive traits,
gleams, hints for his creative imagination. Over this fine substance for
a long while he pondered. It was a medium in which the one and the many
demanded to be most subtly dependent upon one another; in which all
parts and all characters must pervade and be pervaded by all other parts
and all other characters; in which each thing must seemingly be but an
influence in all other things; and yet the whole must be no other than
the sum of all its parts, and each part an all-pervading determination
of the whole. It was a cosmical substance in which any individual spirit
must be, mysteriously, at once an absolute self and a mere figment of
the whole.

This most subtle medium the Star Maker now rough-hewed into the general
form of a cosmos. Thus he fashioned a still indeterminate space-time, as
yet quite ungeometrized; an amorphous physicality with no clear quality
or direction, no intricacy of physical laws; a more distinctly conceived
vital trend and epic adventure of mentality; and a surprisingly definite
climax and crown of spiritual lucidity. This last, though its situation
in the cosmical time was for the most part late, was given a certain
precision of outline earlier in the sequence of creative work than any
other factor in the cosmos. And it seemed to me that this was so because
the initial substance itself so clearly exposed its own potentiality for
some such spiritual form. Thus it was that the Star Maker at first
almost neglected the physical minutiae of his work, neglected also the
earlier ages of cosmical history, and devoted his skill at first almost
entirely to shaping the spiritual climax of the whole creature. Not till
he had blocked in unmistakably the most awakened phase of the cosmical
spirit did he trace any of the variegated psychological trends which, in
the cosmical time, should lead up to it. Not till he had given outline
to the incredibly diverse themes of mental growth did he give attention
fully to constructing the biological evolutions and the physical and
geometrical intricacy which could best evoke the more subtle
potentialities of his still rough-hewn cosmical spirit. But, as he
geometrized, he also intermittently turned again to modify and elucidate
the spiritual climax itself. Not till the physical and geometrical form
of the cosmos was almost completely fashioned could he endow the
spiritual climax with fully concrete individuality.

While he was still working upon the detail of the countless, poignant
individual lives, upon the fortunes of men, of ichthyoids, of
nautiloids, and the rest, I became convinced that his attitude to his
creatures was very different from what it had been for any other cosmos.
For he was neither cold to them nor yet simply in love with them. In
love with them, indeed, he still was; but he had seemingly outgrown all
desire to save them from the consequences of their finitude and from the
cruel impact of the environment. He loved them without pity. For he saw
that their distinctive virtue lay in their finitude, their minute
particularity, their tortured balance between dullness and lucidity; and
that to save them from these would be to annihilate them.

When he had given the last touches to all the cosmical ages from the
supreme moment back to the initial explosion and on to the final death,
the Star Maker contemplated his work. And he saw that it was good.

As he lovingly, though critically, reviewed our cosmos in all its
infinite diversity and in its brief moment of lucidity, I felt that he
was suddenly filled with reverence for the creature that he had made, or
that he had ushered out of his own secret depth by a kind of divine
self-midwifery. He knew that this creature, though imperfect, though a
mere creature, a mere figment of his own creative power, was yet in a
manner more real than himself. For beside this concrete splendor what
was he but a mere abstract potency of creation? Moreover in another
respect the thing that he had made was his superior, and his teacher.
For as he contemplated this the loveliest and subtlest of all his works
with exultation, even with awe, its impact upon him changed him,
clarifying and deepening his will. As he discriminated its virtue and
its weakness, his own perception and his own skill matured. So at least
it seemed to my bewildered, awe-stricken mind.

Thus, little by little, it came about, as so often before, that the Star
Maker outgrew his creature. Increasingly he frowned upon the loveliness
that he still cherished. Then, seemingly with a conflict of reverence
and impatience, he set our cosmos in its place among his other works.

Once more he sank into deep meditation. Once more the creative urge
possessed him.

Of the many creations which followed I must perforce say almost nothing,
for in most respects they lay beyond my mental reach. I could not have
any cognizance of them save in so far as they contained, along with much
that was inconceivable, some features that were but fantastic
embodiments of principles which I had already encountered. Thus all their
most vital novelty escaped me.

I can, indeed, say of all these creations that, like our own cosmos,
they were immensely capacious, immensely subtle; and that, in some alien
manner or other, every one of them had both a physical and a mental
aspect; though in many the physical, however crucial to the spirit's
growth, was more transparent, more patently phantasmal than in our own
cosmos. In some cases this was true equally of the mental, for the
beings were often far less deceived by the opacity of their individual
mental processes, and more sensitive to then-underlying unity.

I can say too that in all these creations the goal which, as it seemed
to me, the Star Maker sought to realize was richness, delicacy, depth
and harmoniousness of being. But what these words in detail mean I
should find it hard to say. It seemed to me that in some cases, as in
our own cosmos, he pursued this end by means of an evolutionary process
crowned by an awakened cosmical mind, which strove to gather into its
own awareness the whole wealth of the cosmical existence, and by
creative action to increase it. But in many cases this goal was achieved
with incomparably greater economy of effort and suffering on the part of
the creatures, and without the huge dead loss of utterly wasted,
ineffective lives which is to us so heart-rending. Yet in other
creations suffering seemed at least as grave and widespread as in our
own cosmos.

In his maturity the Star Maker conceived many strange forms of time. For
instance, some of the later creations were designed with two or more
temporal dimensions, and the lives of the creatures were temporal
sequences in one or other dimension of the temporal "area" or "volume."
These beings experienced their cosmos in a very odd manner. Living for a
brief period along one dimension, each perceived at every moment of its
life a simultaneous vista which, though of course fragmentary and
obscure, was actually a view of a whole unique "transverse" cosmical
evolution in the other dimension. In some cases a creature had an active
life in every temporal dimension of the cosmos. The divine skill which
arranged the whole temporal "volume" in such a manner that all the
infinite spontaneous acts of all the creatures should fit together to
produce a coherent system of transverse evolutions far surpassed even
the ingenuity of the earlier experiment in "pre-established harmony."

In other creations a creature was given only one life, but this was a
"zig-zag line," alternating from one temporal dimension to another
according to the quality of the choices that the creature made. Strong
or moral choices led in one temporal direction, weak or immoral choices
in another.

In one inconceivably complex cosmos, whenever a creature was faced with
several possible courses of action, it took them all, thereby creating
many distinct temporal dimensions and distinct histories of the cosmos.
Since in every evolutionary sequence of the cosmos there were very many
creatures, and each was constantly faced with many possible courses, and
the combinations of all their courses were innumerable, an infinity of
distinct universes exfoliated from every moment of every temporal
sequence in this cosmos.

In some creations each being had sensory perception of the whole
physical cosmos from many spatial points of view, or even from every
possible point of view. In the latter case, of course, the perception of
every mind was identical in spatial range, but it varied from mind to
mind in respect of penetration or insight. This depended on the mental
caliber and disposition of particular minds. Sometimes these beings had
not only omnipresent perception but omnipresent volition. They could
take action in every region of space, though with varying precision and
vigor according to their mental caliber. In a manner they were
disembodied spirits, striving over the physical cosmos like
chess-players, or like Greek gods over the Trojan Plain.

In other creations, though there was indeed a physical aspect, there was
nothing corresponding to the familiar systematic physical universe. The
physical experience of the beings was wholly determined by their mutual
impact on one another. Each flooded its fellows with sensory "images,"
the quality and sequence of which were determined according to
psychological laws of the impact of mind on mind.

In other creations the processes of perception, memory, intellection,
and even desire and feeling were so different from ours as to constitute
in fact a mentality of an entirely different order. Of these minds,
though I seemed to catch remote echoes of them, I cannot say anything.

Or rather, though I cannot speak of the alien psychical modes of these
beings, one very striking fact about them I can record. However
incomprehensible their basic mental fibers and the patterns into which
these were woven, in one respect all these beings came fleetingly within
my comprehension. However foreign to me their lives, in one respect they
were my kin. For all these cosmical creatures, senior to me, and more
richly endowed, constantly faced existence in the manner that I myself
still haltingly strove to learn. Even in pain and grief, even in the
very act of moral striving and of white-hot pity, they met fate's issue
with joy. Perhaps the most surprising and heartening fact that emerged
from all my cosmical and hypercosmical experience was this kinship and
mutual intelligibility of the most alien beings in respect of the pure
spiritual experience. But I was soon to discover that in this connection
I had still much to learn.

3. THE ULTIMATE COSMOS AND THE ETERNAL SPIRIT

In vain my fatigued, my tortured attention strained to follow the
increasingly subtle creations which, according to my dream, the Star
Maker conceived. Cosmos after cosmos issued from his fervent
imagination, each one with a distinctive spirit infinitely diversified,
each in its fullest attainment more awakened than the last; but each one
less comprehensible to me.

At length, so my dream, my myth, declared, the Star Maker created his
ultimate and most subtle cosmos, for which all others were but tentative
preparations. Of this final creature I can say only that it embraced
within its own organic texture the essences of all its predecessors; and
far more besides. It was like the last movement of a symphony, which may
embrace, by the significance of its themes, the essence of the earlier
movements; and far more besides. This metaphor extravagantly understates
the subtlety and complexity of the ultimate cosmos. I was gradually
forced to believe that its relation to each earlier cosmos was
approximately that of our own cosmos to a human being, nay to a single
physical atom. Every cosmos that I had hitherto observed now turned out
to be a single example of a myriad-fold class, like a biological
species, or the class of all the atoms of a single element. The internal
life of each "atomic" cosmos had seemingly the same kind of relevance
(and the same kind of irrelevance) to the life of the ultimate cosmos as
the events within a brain cell, or in one of its atoms, to the life of a
human mind. Yet in spite of this huge discrepancy I seemed to sense
throughout the whole dizzying hierarchy of creations a striking identity
of spirit. In all, the goal was conceived, in the end, to include
community and the lucid and creative mind.

I strained my fainting intelligence to capture something of the form of
the ultimate cosmos. With mingled admiration and protest I haltingly
glimpsed the final subtleties of world and flesh and spirit, and of the
community of those most diverse and individual beings, awakened to full
self-knowledge and mutual insight. But as I strove to hear more inwardly
into that music of concrete spirits in countless worlds, I caught echoes
not merely of joys unspeakable, but of griefs inconsolable. For some of
these ultimate beings not only suffered, but suffered in darkness.
Though gifted with full power of insight, their power was barren. The
vision was withheld from them. They suffered as lesser spirits would
never suffer. Such intensity of harsh experience was intolerable to me,
the frail spirit of a lowly cosmos. In an agony of horror and pity I
despairingly stopped the ears of my mind. In my littleness I cried out
against my maker that no glory of the eternal and absolute could redeem
such agony in the creatures. Even if the misery that I had glimpsed was
in fact but a few dark strands woven into the golden tapestry to enrich
it, and all the rest was bliss, yet such desolation of awakened spirits,
I cried, ought not, ought never to be. By what diabolical malice, I
demanded, were these glorious beings not merely tortured but deprived of
the supreme consolation, the ecstasy of contemplation and praise which
is the birthright of all fully awakened spirits? There had been a time
when I myself, as the communal mind of a lowly cosmos, had looked upon
the frustration and sorrow of my little members with equanimity,
conscious that the suffering of these drowsy beings was no great price
to pay for the lucidity that I myself contributed to reality. But the
suffering individuals within the ultimate cosmos, though in comparison
with the hosts of happy creatures they were few, were beings, it seemed
to me, of my own, cosmical, mental stature, not the frail, shadowy
existences that had contributed their dull griefs to my making. And this
I could not endure.

Yet obscurely I saw that the ultimate cosmos was nevertheless lovely,
and perfectly formed; and that every frustration and agony within it,
however cruel to the sufferer, issued finally, without any miscarriage
in the enhanced lucidity of the cosmical spirit itself. In this sense at
least no individual tragedy was vain.

But this was nothing. And now, as through tears of compassion and hot
protest, I seemed to see the spirit of the ultimate and perfected cosmos
face her maker. In her, it seemed, compassion and indignation were
subdued by praise. And the Star Maker, that dark power and lucid
intelligence, found in the concrete loveliness of his creature the
fulfilment of desire. And in the mutual joy of the Star Maker and the
ultimate cosmos was conceived, most strangely, the absolute spirit
itself, in which all times are present and all being is comprised; for
the spirit which was the issue of this union confronted my reeling
intelligence as being at once the ground and the issue of all temporal
and finite things.

But to me this mystical and remote perfection was nothing. In pity of
the ultimate tortured beings, in human shame and rage, I scorned my
birthright of ecstasy in that inhuman perfection, and yearned back to my
lowly cosmos, to my own human and floundering world, there to stand
shoulder to shoulder with my own half animal kind against the powers of
darkness; yes, and against the indifferent, the ruthless, the invincible
tyrant whose mere thoughts are sentient and tortured worlds.

Then, in the very act of this defiant gesture, as I slammed and bolted
the door of the little dark cell of my separate self, my walls were all
shattered and crushed inwards by the pressure of irresistible light, and
my naked vision was once more seared by lucidity beyond its endurance.

Once more? No. I had but reverted in my interpretative dream to the
identical moment of illumination, closed by blindness, when I had seemed
to spread wing to meet the Star Maker, and was struck down by terrible
light. But now I conceived more clearly what it was that had overwhelmed
me. I was indeed confronted by the Star Maker, but the Star Maker was
now revealed as more than the creative and therefore finite spirit. He
now appeared as the eternal and perfect spirit which comprises all
things and all times, and contemplates timelessly the infinitely diverse
host which it comprises. The illumination which flooded in on me and
struck me down to blind worship was a glimmer, so it seemed to me, of
the eternal spirit's own all-penetrating experience.

It was with anguish and horror, and yet with acquiescence, even with
praise, that I felt or seemed to feel something of the eternal spirit's
temper as it apprehended in one intuitive and timeless vision all our
lives. Here was no pity, no proffer of salvation, no kindly aid. Or here
were all pity and all love, but mastered by a frosty ecstasy. Our broken
lives, our loves, our follies, our betrayals, our forlorn and gallant
defenses, were one and all calmly anatomized, assessed, and placed.
True, they were one and all lived through with complete understanding,
with insight and full sympathy, even with passion. But sympathy was not
ultimate in the temper of the eternal spirit; contemplation was. Love
was not absolute; contemplation was. And though there was love, there
was also hate comprised within the spirit's temper, for there was cruel
delight in the contemplation of every horror, and glee in the downfall
of the virtuous. All passions, it seemed, were comprised within the
spirit's temper; but mastered, icily gripped within the cold, clear,
crystal ecstasy of contemplation.

That this should be the upshot of all our lives, this scientist's, no,
artist's, keen appraisal! And yet I worshipped!

But this was not the worst. For in saying that the spirit's temper was
contemplation, I imputed to it a finite human experience, and an
emotion; thereby comforting myself, even though with cold comfort. But
in truth the eternal spirit was ineffable. Nothing whatever could be
truly said about it. Even to name it "spirit" was perhaps to say more
than was justified. Yet to deny it that name would be no less mistaken;
for whatever it was, it was more, not less, than spirit, more, not less,
than any possible human meaning of that word. And from the human level,
even from the level of a cosmical mind, this "more," obscurely and
agonizingly glimpsed, was a dread mystery, compelling adoration.



CHAPTER XVI

EPILOGUE: BACK TO EARTH

I WOKE on the hill. The street lamps of our suburb outshone the stars.
The reverberation of the clock's stroke was followed by eleven strokes
more. I singled out our window. A surge of joy, of wild joy, swept me
like a wave. Then peace.

The littleness, but the intensity, of earthly events! Gone, abolished in
an instant, was the hypercosmical reality, the wild fountain of
creations, and all the spray of worlds. Vanished, transmuted into
fantasy, and into sublime irrelevance.

The littleness, but the intensity, of this whole grain of rock, with its
film of ocean and of air, and its discontinuous, variegated, tremulous
film of life; of the shadowy hills, of the sea, vague, horizonless; of
the pulsating, cepheid, lighthouse; of the clanking railway trucks. My
hand caressed the pleasant harshness of the heather.

Vanished, the hypercosmical apparition. Not such as I had dreamed must
the real be, but infinitely more subtle, more dread, more excellent. And
infinitely nearer home.

Yet, however false the vision in detail of structure, even perhaps in
its whole form, in temper surely it was relevant; in temper perhaps it
was even true. The real itself, surely, had impelled me to conceive that
image, false in every theme and facet, yet in spirit true.

The stars wanly trembled above the street lamps. Great suns? Or feeble
sparks in the night sky? Suns, it was vaguely rumored. Lights at least
to steer by, and to beckon the mind from the terrestrial flurry; but
piercing the heart with their cold spears.

Sitting there on the heather, on our planetary grain, I shrank from the
abysses that opened up on every side, and in the future. The silent
darkness, the featureless unknown, were more dread than all the terrors
that imagination had mustered. Peering, the mind could see nothing sure,
nothing in all human experience to be grasped as certain, except
uncertainty itself; nothing but obscurity gendered by a thick haze of
theories. Man's science was a mere mist of numbers; his philosophy but a
fog of words. His very perception of this rocky grain and all its
wonders was but a shifting and a lying apparition. Even oneself, that
seeming-central fact, was a mere phantom, so deceptive, that the most
honest of men must question his own honesty, so insubstantial that he
must even doubt his very existence. And our loyalties! so
self-deceiving, so misinformed and misconceived. So savagely pursued
and hate-warped! Our very loves, and these in full and generous
intimacy, must be condemned as unseeing, self-regarding, and
self-gratulatory. And yet? I singled out our window. We had been happy
together! We had found, or we had created, our little treasure of
community. This was the one rock in all the welter of experience. This,
not the astronomical and hypercosmical immensity, nor even the planetary
grain, this, this alone, was the solid ground of existence. On every
side was confusion, a rising storm, great waves already drenching our
rock. And all around, in the dark welter, faces and appealing hands,
half-seen and vanishing.

And the future? Black with the rising storm of this world's madness,
though shot through with flashes of a new and violent hope, the hope of
a sane, a reasonable, a happier world. Between our time and that future,
what horror lay in store? Oppressors would not meekly give way. And we
two, accustomed only to security and mildness, were fit only for a
kindly world; wherein, none being tormented, none turns desperate. We
were adapted only to fair weather, for the practice of the friendly but
not too difficult, not heroical virtues, in a society both secure and
just. Instead, we found ourselves in an age of titanic conflict, when
the relentless powers of darkness and the ruthless because desperate
powers of light were coming to grips for a death struggle in the world's
torn heart, when grave choices must be made in crisis after crisis, and
no simple or familiar principles were adequate.

Beyond our estuary a red growth of fire sprang from a foundry. At hand,
the dark forms of the gorse lent mystery to the suburb's foot-worn moor.

In imagination I saw, behind our own hill's top, the further and unseen
hills. I saw the plains and woods and all the fields, each with its
myriads of particular blades. I saw the whole land curving down from me,
over the planet's shoulder. The villages were strung together on a mesh
of roads, steel lines, and humming wires. Mist-drops on a cobweb. Here
and there a town displayed itself as an expanse of light, a nebulous
luminosity, sprinkled with stars.

Beyond the plains, London, neon-lit, seething, was a microscope-slide
drawn from foul water, and crowded with nosing animalcules. Animalcules!
In the stars' view, no doubt, these creatures were mere vermin; yet each
to itself, and sometimes one to another, was more real than all the
stars.

Gazing beyond London, imagination detected the dim stretch of the
Channel, and then the whole of Europe, a patch-work of tillage and
sleeping industrialism. Beyond poplared Normandy spread Paris, with the
towers of Notre-Dame tipped slightly, by reason of Earth's curvature.
Further on, the Spanish night was ablaze with the murder of cities. Away
to the left lay Germany, with its forests and factories, its music, its
steel helmets. In cathedral squares I seemed to see the young men ranked
together in thousands, exalted, possessed, saluting the flood-lit
Fuhrer. In Italy too, land of memories and illusions, the mob's idol
spell-bound the young.

Far left-wards again, Russia, an appreciably convex segment of our
globe, snow-pale in the darkness, spread out under the stars and
cloudtracts. Inevitably I saw the spires of the Kremlin, confronting the
Red Square. There Lenin lay, victorious. Far off, at the foot of the
Urals, imagination detected the ruddy plumes and smoke-pall of
Magnetostroy. Beyond the hills there gleamed a hint of dawn; for day, at
my midnight, was already pouring westward across Asia, overtaking with
its advancing front of gold and rose the tiny smoke-caterpillar of the
Trans-Siberian Express. To the north, the iron-hard Arctic oppressed the
exiles in their camps. Far southward lay the rich valleys and plains
that once cradled our species. But there I now saw railway lines ruled
across the snow. In every village Asiatic children were waking to
another schoolday, and to the legend of Lenin. South again the
Himalayas, snow-clad from waist to crest, looked over the rabble of
their foot-hills into crowded India. I saw the dancing cotton plants,
and the wheat, and the sacred river that bore the waters of Kamet past
ricefields and crocodile-shallows, past Calcutta with its shipping and
its offices, down to the sea. From my midnight I looked into China. The
morning sun glanced from the flooded fields and gilded the ancestral
graves. The Yang Tse, a gleaming, crumpled thread, rushed through its
gorge. Beyond the Korean ranges, and across the sea, stood Fujiyama,
extinct and formal. Around it a volcanic population welled and seethed
in that narrow land, like lava in a crater. Already it spilled over Asia
a flood of armies and of trade. Imagination withdrew and turned to
Africa. I saw the man-made thread of water that joins West to East; then
minarets, pyramids, the ever-waiting Sphinx. Ancient Memphis itself now
echoed with the rumor of Magnetostroy. Far southward, black men slept
beside the great lakes. Elephants trampled the crops. Further still,
where Dutch and English profit by the Negro millions, those hosts were
stirred by vague dreams of freedom. Peering beyond the whole bulge of
Africa, beyond cloud-spread Table Mountain, I saw the Southern Ocean,
black with storms, and then the ice-cliffs with their seals and
penguins, and the high snow-fields of the one unpeopled continent.
Imagination faced the midnight sun, crossed the Pole, and passed Erebus,
vomiting hot lava down his ermine. Northward it sped over the summer
sea, past New Zealand, that freer but less conscious Britain, to
Australia, where clear-eyed horsemen collect their flocks.

Still peering eastward from my hill, I saw the Pacific, strewn with
islands; and then the Americas, where the descendants of Europe long ago
mastered the descendants of Asia, through priority in the use of guns,
and the arrogance that guns breed. Beside the further ocean, north and
south, lay the old New World; the River Plate and Rio, the New England
cities, radiating center of the old new style of life and thought. New
York, dark against the afternoon sun, was a cluster of tall crystals, a
Stonehenge of modern megaliths. Round these, like fishes nibbling at the
feet of waders, the great liners crowded. Out at sea also I saw them,
and the plunging freighters, forging through the sunset, port holes and
decks aglow. Stokers sweated at furnaces, look-out men in crow's-nests
shivered, dance music, issuing from opened doors, was drowned by the
wind.

The whole planet, the whole rock-grain, with its busy swarms, I now saw
as an arena where two cosmical antagonists, two spirits, were already
preparing for a critical struggle, already assuming terrestrial and
local guise, and coming to grips in our half-awakened minds. In city
upon city, in village after village, and in innumerable lonely
farmsteads, cottages, hovels, shacks, huts, in all the crevices where
human creatures were intent on their little comforts and triumphs and
escapes, the great struggle of our age was brewing.

One antagonist appeared as the will to dare for the sake of the new, the
longed for, the reasonable and joyful, world, in which every man and
woman may have scope to live fully, and live in service of mankind. The
other seemed essentially the myopic fear of the unknown; or was it more
sinister? Was it the cunning will for private mastery, which fomented
for its own ends the archaic, reason-hating, and vindictive, passion of
the tribe.

It seemed that in the coming storm all the dearest things must be
destroyed. All private happiness, all loving, all creative work in art,
science, and philosophy, all intellectual scrutiny and speculative
imagination, and all creative social building; all, indeed, that man
should normally live for, seemed folly and mockery and mere
self-indulgence in the presence of public calamity. But if we failed to
preserve them, when would they live again?

How to face such an age? How to muster courage, being capable only of
homely virtues? How to do this, yet preserve the mind's integrity, never
to let the struggle destroy in one's own heart what one tried to serve
in the world, the spirit's integrity?

Two lights for guidance. The first, our little glowing atom of
community, with all that it signifies. The second, the cold light of the
stars, symbol of the hypercosmical reality, with its crystal ecstasy.
Strange that in this light, in which even the dearest love is frostily
assessed, and even the possible defeat of our half-waking world is
contemplated without remission of praise, the human crisis does not lose
but gains significance. Strange that it seems more, not less, urgent to
play some part in this struggle, this brief effort of animalcules
striving to win for their race some increase of lucidity before the
ultimate darkness.


THE END




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